OpenAI says Sam Altman to return as CEO just days after the board sacked him and he said he’d join Microsoft

San Francisco — OpenAI said Tuesday that its co-founder Sam Altman would return to the tech company as CEO, just days after he was fired by its board of directors and then quickly announced that he was joining Microsoft.

“We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo,” OpenAI said in a post on the social media platform X.

In his own statement on the platform, Altman said he loved OpenAI and that everything he’d done “over the past few days has been in service of keeping this team and its mission together.”

Board overhaul

OpenAI also said it is forming a new board that will include former Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor, who will serve as chair; economist and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers; and existing director Adam D’Angelo, CEO of Quora. Three directors involved in the decision to oust Altman —  Ilya Sutskever, Helen Toner and Tasha McCauley — are leaving the board.

OpenAI’s previous board, which included D’Angelo, had refused to give specific reasons for firing Altman, leading to a weekend of internal conflict at the company and growing outside pressure from the startup’s investors.

Former OpenAI president Greg Brockman, who left Friday along with Altman, is also returning to the company, although neither he nor Altman will serve on the new board, according to The Information. 

Dan Ives, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, said he expects the overhaul to OpenAI’s board to strengthen its governance. “The former, now infamous, board members are finally gone after the failed coup, and now in essence OpenAI will be virtually the same than before this soap opera began,” he said in report.

Microsoft’s intervention

Helping to drive Altman’s return and the installation of a new board was Microsoft, which has invested billions of dollars in OpenAI and has rights to its existing technology. After Altman’s dismissal, the software giant quickly moved to hire him and Brockman. That emboldened a threat to resign by hundreds of OpenAI employees, who signed a letter calling for the board’s resignation and Altman’s return.

Altman said that when he decided on Sunday evening to join Microsoft, “it was clear that was the best path for me and the team,” but he said the new board announced by OpenAI — and the support of Microsoft’s chairman and CEO Satya Nadella — he was looking forward to returning to the company he helped establish and “to building on our strong partnership with” the software giant.

Nadella said Microsoft’s leadership had been “encouraged by the changes to the OpenAI board” and that the company believed they were “a first essential step on a path to more stable, well-informed, and effective governance.”

OpenAI employees sign letter supporting ousted CEO Sam Altman


OpenAI, which makes the popular artificial intelligence powered chatbot ChatGPT, said Friday that Altman was pushed out after a review found he was “not consistently candid in his communications” with the board of directors, which had lost confidence in his ability to lead OpenAI.

One Wall Street research firm said, however, that it believed tensions had arisen over Altman’s push to develop more advanced products. 

“These tensions likely resulted in frustrating communications and Sam making some operational decisions without keeping the board fully aware,” said New Street Research in a research note. “The coup, and the sibylline associated blog post, about Sam not being ‘consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities’ resulted from this situation.”

One board member tweeted that they regretted their participation in the decision to oust Altman. 

“I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company,” wrote board member Ilya Sutskever in a Monday morning social media post.

Altman catapulted ChatGPT to global fame while serving as company CEO and in the past year has become Silicon Valley’s sought-after voice on the promise and potential dangers of artificial intelligence.

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