News & Analysis

OpenAI Co-Founder Sam Altman reinstated as CEO

22nd November 2023
Paige West

OpenAI has announced the return of its Co-Founder Sam Altman as CEO, mere days after his unexpected dismissal.

This decision comes amidst significant upheaval within the company and an open letter from its staff demanding his reinstatement.

The tech firm's board, last Friday (19th November), decided to remove Altman, leading to co-founder Greg Brockman's resignation and plunging the AI company into turmoil. The decision was made by non-employee board members Adam D'Angelo, Tasha McCauley, Helen Toner, and co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever. However, in a dramatic turn of events, the board agreed "in principle" to Altman's return, along with a reconstitution of the board.

Following Altman's dismissal, the staff of OpenAI, numbering over 700, penned an open letter threatening resignation unless he was reinstated. The letter highlighted the team's commitment to OpenAI and its mission. Microsoft, a major investor in OpenAI, offered jobs to all OpenAI staff, showcasing its support during this leadership crisis.

The reinstatement of Altman is accompanied by the appointment of new board members, including former Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor and former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, alongside current director Adam D'Angelo. Emmett Shear, appointed as OpenAI's interim chief executive, expressed his deep satisfaction with Altman's return after intense discussions and negotiations.

Looking forward, Altman emphasised building on OpenAI's "strong partnership with Microsoft." Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella expressed optimism about the changes to the OpenAI board, seeing them as steps toward more stable and effective governance. Microsoft's investment in OpenAI is significant, though it does not extend to boardroom influence.

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