In a surprising turn of events, OpenAI has officially announced the return of Sam Altman as CEO, just twelve days after his initial termination. This announcement comes as a significant development in the company’s recent leadership reshuffle. OpenAI also introduced a new board of directors, which includes Chairman Bret Taylor, former co-CEO of Salesforce; Larry Summers, former Treasury Secretary; and Adam D’Angelo, the CEO of Quora, who is the only remaining director from the previous board that ousted Altman on November 17.
In an interesting twist, key stakeholder Microsoft has been granted a non-voting observer seat on the company’s board. This move follows Microsoft’s recent involvement with OpenAI, which saw Altman and former OpenAI Chairman Greg Brockman briefly joining Microsoft, only to return to OpenAI shortly thereafter – a development that CEO Satya Nadella has publicly endorsed.
The newly formed board is described as “initial,” indicating that OpenAI plans to appoint more directors in the future. Sam Altman, in a company blog post, expressed his gratitude to the previous board that had removed him from the CEO position, acknowledging their contributions to the company. He also announced the reinstatement of Mira Murati as the company’s chief technology officer. Notably, Murati had briefly taken on the role of interim CEO until the appointment of former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear, who served as CEO for less than a week.
The tumultuous events at OpenAI resulted in a majority of the company’s 800 employees threatening to resign unless Sam Altman and Greg Brockman were reinstated. One of the notable signatories of this ultimatum was Ilya Sutskever, a former board member who had played a pivotal role in Altman’s removal. However, Sutskever later expressed regret for his actions and apologized for his decision.
The status of Ilya Sutskever’s role as chief scientist at OpenAI remains uncertain, as he was not included in Altman’s newly formed leadership team. Altman, in his blog post, expressed his respect for Sutskever and his hope to continue their working relationship at OpenAI in some capacity.
Sam Altman reserved his highest praise for Greg Brockman, who has now returned to the company after his brief departure. Altman acknowledged their partnership in running OpenAI and thanked Brockman for his handling of the situation during this challenging period.
Altman also commended OpenAI’s dedicated employees and loyal customers, highlighting that the company did not lose any of them throughout the ordeal. He expressed his admiration for the team’s unwavering support for each other, the company, and its mission.
However, Altman recognized the need for improvements in OpenAI’s governance structure and called for an independent investigation to determine the factors that led to his initial ouster. He emphasized the importance of learning from this experience and applying those lessons to guide the company forward.
In a separate post on X, Altman acknowledged the existence of “real misunderstandings” between himself and certain board members. He welcomed the board’s decision to conduct an independent review of all recent events, indicating his commitment to addressing the issues that arose during this period.
OpenAI has reinstated Sam Altman as CEO, introduced a new board of directors, and granted Microsoft a non-voting observer seat on the board. The company is now in a state of transition, aiming to move forward with renewed governance and a commitment to learning from past challenges.