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Sam Altman Returns as OpenAI CEO − to a New Board

Sam Altman will resume his position as CEO and agreed to an investigation into his conduct. There is also a new board.

Ben Wodecki

November 22, 2023

3 Min Read
Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI. Sam Altman returned to OpenAI five days after being fired. He joined Microsoft but returned after just four days.
Sam Altman spent just four days at MicrosoftChip Somodevilla/Getty Images

At a Glance

  • Four days after being abruptly fired, Sam Altman will return as OpenAI's CEO and agreed to an investigation into his conduct.
  • There is a new board that includes former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and former co-CEO of Salesforce, Bret Taylor.
  • OpenAI President Greg Brockman, who quit in sympathy to Altman's firing, resumed his position as well.

After five chaotic days, Sam Altman is returning as CEO of OpenAI.

The company announced on X (Twitter) that an agreement in principle had been reached that would see Altman return from his short stint at Microsoft to become the company’s fourth CEO in five days.

In turn, Altman agreed to an internal investigation of his conduct at the startup, according to The Verge. Interim CEO Emmett Shear had threatened to resign if the board did not provide evidence of Altman's wrongdoing.

OpenAI’s board has been shaken up too with a new initial board chaired by Bret Taylor, the former co-chief executive of Salesforce. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers also will join the board. The third member is a returning one: Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo.

Ousted from the board are tech entrepreneur Tasha McCauley and AI strategist Helen Toner, as is Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI's chief scientist and the now regretful man behind the coup. The Verge said the wife of OpenAI President Greg Brockman pleaded with Sutskever to change his mind about the firing. Brockman had resigned in sympathy with Altman but will return as well.

Altman responded in a tweet that “everything I’ve done over the past few days has been in service of keeping this team and its mission together.” His agreeing to join Microsoft on Sunday night “was the best path for me and the team” at the time. But with the new board, Altman said he is “looking forward to returning to OpenAI.”

Related:OpenAI Sought Merger with Anthropic; Sam Altman the ‘Martyr’

View post on Twitter

Brockman posted a group photo of himself with scores of smiling OpenAI staff on X: “We are so back.” The official OpenAI account reposted it with the caption: "OpenAI is nothing without its people” – a slogan repeatedly used by staff during the startup’s four-day crisis.

View post on Twitter

Is the saga over?

In a way, it was not a surprise that Altman returned despite being publicly humiliated with murky allegations about his conduct. OpenAI owns ChatGPT and the GPT series of groundbreaking large language models, which have been billed as a new computing platform. Altman will be leaving it behind if he takes on a new role at Microsoft.

OpenAI is trying to resume some normality after a rocky week. Brockman tweeted that staff are getting back to coding already – with plenty of projects on the go, including the highlight anticipated GPT-5 and further updates to ChatGPT on the way.

Brockman said the company will “come back stronger and more unified than ever.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who reportedly was livid at being blindsided by Altman’s firing and putting his $13 billion investment in jeopardy, said in a statement that the board changes were necessary.

Related:OpenAI Existence in Limbo as Nearly All Staff Threaten to Quit

“We believe this is a first essential step on a path to more stable, well-informed, and effective governance. Sam, Greg and I have talked and agreed they have a key role to play along with the OpenAI leadership team in ensuring OpenAI continues to thrive and build on its mission.”

Emmett Shear, the interim CEO put in place by the former board, said he was “deeply pleased” by the news that Altman was set to return.

“Coming into OpenAI, I wasn’t sure what the right path would be. This was the pathway that maximized safety alongside doing right by all stakeholders involved. I’m glad to have been a part of the solution.”

AI Business has contacted Microsoft and OpenAI for comment.

Read more about:

ChatGPT / Generative AI

About the Author(s)

Ben Wodecki

Jr. Editor

Ben Wodecki is the Jr. Editor of AI Business, covering a wide range of AI content. Ben joined the team in March 2021 as assistant editor and was promoted to Jr. Editor. He has written for The New Statesman, Intellectual Property Magazine, and The Telegraph India, among others. He holds an MSc in Digital Journalism from Middlesex University.

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