OpenAI emails reveal Elon Musk wanted “full control” of the company

Sayem Ahmed
Elon Musk in TED talk interview

OpenAI has published email exchanges between the company and Elon Musk, claiming that the entrepreneur wanted “full control” of the company.

Elon Musk has long since been known as an early investor in OpenAI, a venture that eventually birthed the likes of ChatGPT, Dall-E, and Sora AI. In 2024, the company is very much at the forefront of AI tech, becoming the poster child for the disruptive tech that giants like Google and Microsoft are rushing to catch up with.

But, back in late 2015, Elon Musk was revealed to be an early investor in the business when it was just a startup. Musk has since sued OpenAI for breaching agreements made early in its life, where the company was alleged to stay as an open-source, non-profit entity. The key thing that appears to have drawn Musk’s ire was Microsoft’s $10 billion investment into the business, as Windows begins to closely integrate its CoPilot AI into Windows 11 and beyond.

In a shocking rebuttal, OpenAI has now made several emails public, which allegedly show that Musk knew that OpenAI was going closed-source and that OpenAI would ultimately become a for-profit company.

“He wanted full control”

Sam Altman on left, Elon musk on Right

In a blog post penned by OpenAI’s founders, the company states that as they discussed turning the company into a for-profit structure, Elon Musk tables the idea of merging OpenAI with Tesla, with the entrepreneur at its helm, in exchange for a hefty $1B investment. As revealed by an email, Elon Musk stated: “We need to go with a much bigger number than $100M to avoid sounding hopeless… I think we should say that we are starting with a $1B funding commitment… I will cover whatever anyone else doesn’t provide.” 

The OpenAI blog post goes on to state: “Elon wanted us to merge with Tesla or he wanted full control.”

Another email exchange in 2018 confirms Musk’s ambition to have Tesla merge with OpenAI: “Tesla is the only path that could even hope to hold a candle to Google. Even then, the probability of being a counterweight to Google is small. It just isn’t zero.”

The email follows with a detailed discussion of how a for-profit venture could work by Musk, showcasing that he not only knew about OpenAI’s intent to turn into a for-profit venture but was also positioning himself as a lynchpin in their plans.

This did not work out, and OpenAI parted ways with Elon Musk, stating that their probability of success was 0. It also calls into question Musk’s knowledge of OpenAI’s intent to go closed-source and turn into a for-profit venture, which he is currently suing them over.

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About The Author

Dexerto's Hardware Editor. Sayem is an expert in all things Nvidia, AMD, Intel, and PC components. He has 10 years of experience, having written for the likes of Eurogamer, IGN, Trusted Reviews, Kotaku, and many more. Get in touch via email at