Sam Altman Reinstated as CEO of OpenAI, Board Undergoes Major Reshuffle

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OpenAI CEO Sam Altman speaks during the OpenAI DevDay event on November 06, 2023 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

OpenAI, the pioneering AI startup, has announced the return of Sam Altman as CEO, just days after his abrupt dismissal, leading to a major overhaul of its board.

In a dramatic twist to what has been a tumultuous week for OpenAI, co-founder Sam Altman has been reinstated as the CEO, the company confirmed early Wednesday. This decision caps off a series of frenzied discussions about the future of the startup, central to the artificial intelligence boom.

The board, which had ousted Altman citing his lack of candour and a need to defend OpenAI’s mission to develop AI for the benefit of humanity, has agreed to undergo significant changes. Former Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers will join the board, with Taylor assuming the chair position. Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo will continue his tenure as a director.

In a post on X, Altman expressed enthusiasm about his return, stating, “i’m looking forward to returning to openai.” This sentiment was echoed by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who welcomed the board’s reshuffling. “We believe this is a first essential step on a path to more stable, well-informed, and effective governance,” Nadella said in a statement.

The rapid reinstatement of Altman began to look likely over the weekend following news that prominent investors, including Microsoft, were working to reverse the board’s decision. Notably, Microsoft, a key backer and technology partner of OpenAI, was crucial in this turnaround.

The shake-up follows intense pressure from employees and investors. On Monday, a significant number of OpenAI’s staff, including co-founder and board member Ilya Sutskever, had threatened to resign and join Altman at Microsoft unless he was reinstated. This internal turmoil was a key driver in the board’s decision to reappoint Altman.

The situation drew parallels with Silicon Valley lore, notably the ousting and subsequent return of Steve Jobs at Apple. However, Altman’s return was much swifter, taking place just four days after his departure.

The U.S. is home to several AI-focused startups such as OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT. (Marco Bertorello/AFP via Getty Images)

OpenAI, known for its groundbreaking ChatGPT chatbot, has been at the forefront of AI development since its inception. The startup, initially part of a nonprofit, has navigated the complexities of balancing AI’s potential for commercialization with concerns about its dangers.

The reappointment of Altman, along with the restructuring of the board, signals a new era for OpenAI. The company, recently valued at over $80 billion, is poised to continue its significant impact on the AI landscape under Altman’s leadership.

Greg Brockman, co-founder and president of OpenAI, who had resigned in protest following Altman’s ouster, expressed his readiness to return to work. “Returning to OpenAI & getting back to coding tonight,” he wrote in a post on X.