Faced with an open revolt from most of its employees, OpenAI surprised no-one on Tuesday when it said the company had reached an agreement for Sam Altman to return as CEO.
The news came days after Altman was sacked by the board and ended frenzied discussions about the future of the startup at the centre of the artificial intelligence boom.
In addition to Altman’s return, the company agreed in principle to partly reconstitute the board of directors that had dismissed him. Former Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor and former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers will join Quora CEO and current director Adam D’Angelo, OpenAI said.
Sam Altman said in a post on X “I’m looking forward to returning to OpenAi.”
His return caps a tumultuous weekend that saw Altman agree to move to OpenAI’s financial backer Microsoft to head a new research team there. That followed a rejection by OpenAI’s board of his first attempt to return to the startup, on Sunday, by naming ex-Twitch boss Emmett Shear as interim CEO.
In a post on X, Shear celebrated the late-night outcome on Tuesday, which he said followed “~72 very intense hours of work.”
i love openai, and everything i’ve done over the past few days has been in service of keeping this team and its mission together. when i decided to join msft on sun evening, it was clear that was the best path for me and the team. with the new board and w satya’s support, i’m…
— Sam Altman (@sama) November 22, 2023
Altman’s dismissal had brought uncertainty for both OpenAI and Microsoft, which had moved quickly to control damage over the weekend by vowing to hire him and Greg Brockman, president of the startup.
Brockman, who had quit after Altman was ousted, said in a post on X that he was “getting back to coding tonight.”
we are so back pic.twitter.com/YcKwkqdNs5
— Greg Brockman (@gdb) November 22, 2023
Nearly all of OpenAI’s more than 700-strong staff on Monday had threatened to leave unless the board stepped down and reinstated Altman and Brockman, according to a letter reviewed by Reuters.
In a statement on X, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella welcomed the changes to OpenAI’s board.
“We believe this is a first essential step on a path to more stable, well-informed, and effective governance,” he said.
We are encouraged by the changes to the OpenAI board. 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 OAI leadership team in ensuring… https://t.co/djO6Fuz6t9
— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) November 22, 2023
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard