In a surprising turn of events, the recently ousted Chief Executive Officer of OpenAI, Sam Altman, is set to return in the same role with a new group of board of directors, reports said. Altman was abruptly removed from his position last week.
OpenAI, headquartered in San Francisco, revealed the potential reinstatement of Altman along with the formation of a new initial board comprising prominent figures from the tech industry. The company’s statement, cited in the AP report, stated, “We have agreed in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board made up of former Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, and Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo.”
The previous board of directors at OpenAI, including D’Angelo, had declined to provide specific reasons for Altman’s dismissal, leading to internal discord and external pressure from the startup’s investors over the weekend.
The decision to terminate Altman without clear notice prompted an employee-driven petition demanding the resignations of the board members and Altman’s reinstatement. This internal strife and external pressure resulted in Microsoft, a major investor in OpenAI, swiftly hiring Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman.
While the resolution of the startup’s governance and board issues is underway, Altman’s return to OpenAI remains contingent. Microsoft’s CTO, Kevin Scott, has reassured OpenAI employees of potential roles at Microsoft’s new AI Research Lab, expressing support for those considering joining Altman at Microsoft.
In a statement on X (formerly Twitter), Scott wrote, “We have seen your petition and appreciate your desire potentially to join Sam Altman at Microsoft’s new AI Research Lab. Know that if needed, you have a role at Microsoft that matches your compensation and advances our collective mission.”
OpenAI, initially founded as a nonprofit organization with the goal of developing safe artificial general intelligence, transitioned to a for-profit company while maintaining its nonprofit board structure. Following Altman’s departure, with only four members remaining on the board, a change in composition and new leadership became necessary.
Amidst the leadership crisis, Greg Brockman made a notable appearance on social media, announcing the launch of ChatGPT Voice, a feature aimed at enhancing the ChatGPT experience. This announcement coincided with a lighthearted demonstration from OpenAI’s main account on X, emphasizing workforce unity while subtly acknowledging the recent upheaval.
Change of Guard
In the new initial board of directors, Taylor will serve as the chair of the new board, who had earlier served as the chairman of the board of Twitter (now X), prior to Elon Musk’s acquisition. He is presently a member of the Shopify’s board.
Summers, a former president of Harvard University, served as the 71st US Secretary of the Treasury under former President Bill Clinton. He was also the director of the National Economic Council.
D’Angelo was one of OpenAI’s existing board members who served as the chief technology officer (CTO) of Facebook (now Meta).
The three other board members who moved to oust Altman — Helen Toner, Tasha McCauley, and Ilya Sutskever — are expected to leave their positions as part of the changes.
(With inputs from agencies)