Sam Altman makes shock return as CEO of OpenAI

In a stunning turn of events, Sam Altman will reclaim his position as CEO of OpenAI, ending a tumultuous week marked by boardroom clashes and employee unrest. Former OpenAI president Greg Brockman, who stepped down in protest of Altman’s ouster, will also return to the company.

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The announcement, made late Tuesday, revealed an “agreement in principle” for Altman’s reinstatement alongside a newly formed board comprising Bret Taylor, Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo. D’Angelo, a holdover from the previous board that dismissed Altman last Friday, remains on the new board to provide continuity.

Sources close to the negotiations indicated that this initial board’s primary objective is to evaluate and appoint an expanded board of up to nine members, tasked with restructuring OpenAI’s governance. Microsoft, having committed to investing billions in the company, seeks a seat on this expanded board, as does Altman himself. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, during a recent press tour, emphasized the company’s desire to avoid further “surprises.”

Both parties have reportedly agreed to an external, independent investigation into the events leading up to Altman’s firing. Conversations with individuals involved suggest that the underlying power struggle at the heart of this saga is far from resolved.

Despite the lingering tension, all key parties have publicly acknowledged the agreement for Altman’s return, which is understood to be finalized pending minor paperwork formalities. Altman, taking to X, stated that his actions over the past few days were solely focused on preserving the team and their mission.

Thrive Capital, a significant OpenAI investor, hailed Altman’s return as “the best outcome for the company, its employees, those utilizing its technologies, and the world at large.”

“OpenAI holds the potential to become one of the most consequential companies in the history of computing,” Thrive partner Kelly Sims remarked in a statement. “Sam and Greg are deeply committed to the company’s integrity and possess an unmatched ability to inspire and lead. We are thrilled to have them back at the helm of the company they founded and helped shape into what it is today.”

Altman’s revival is even more remarkable considering his abrupt departure on Friday. OpenAI’s non-profit board appeared unwavering in its initial decision to remove Altman, swiftly appointing two CEOs within three days to prevent his reinstatement. Meanwhile, OpenAI employees staged a revolt, threatening to join Microsoft with Altman and Brockman if the board refused to step down.

Since Altman’s dismissal, the board members opposing him have withheld detailed justifications for their actions, even under the threat of lawsuits from investors and employee walkouts. On Sunday, Ilya Sutskever, a pivotal board member, switched allegiances back to Altman after being persuaded by Brockman’s wife (who happens to be Sutskever’s former officiant at their OpenAI headquarters wedding – that’s how deep this goes). Sutskever’s reversal, considering his role as OpenAI’s chief scientist, left the remaining three board members increasingly vulnerable.

Interim CEO Emmett Shear, appointed by the board on Sunday to replace interim CEO Mira Murati, reportedly threatened to resign unless the board provided concrete evidence of wrongdoing to substantiate Altman’s firing. Following the announcement of Altman’s return, Shear commended the decision, stating, “This path maximizes safety and aligns with the interests of all stakeholders involved. I’m proud to have contributed to the solution.”