Sam Altman returns as OpenAI CEO under new board


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What just happened? In what has been one of the most chaotic situations in tech history, it's been announced that Sam Altman is returning as CEO of OpenAI, five days after he was fired. Former president Greg Brockman, who left in support of Altman, is also returning. The pair will come back under a new three-person board that retains a single member of the existing board – the one that fired Altman.

OpenAI said in a statement that it has an "agreement in principle" for Altman to return as CEO. He was fired last Friday by the board of directors, which said it no longer had confidence in Altman's ability to lead OpenAI and stay "consistently candid in his communications with the board."

Altman and Brockman will serve under the supervision of the new board consisting of former Salesforce chief executive Bret Taylor as chair, former US Treasury secretary Larry Summers, and Quora CEO Adam D'Angelo, the only existing board member.

The Financial Times writes that current board member and company co-founder Ilya Sutskever flipped to support Altman's reinstatement on Monday. Over 650 employees had threatened to quit the company if he didn't return as CEO, and there was even talk of nervous investors seeking legal action against OpenAI over the situation.

The Verge reports that the main job of the new, temporary board will be to vet and appoint an expanded board of up to 9 people that will reset the governance of OpenAI. OpenAI investor and 49% owner Microsoft also wants a seat, as does Altman himself.

Speaking of Microsoft, CEO Satya Nadella announced this week that both Altman and Brockman, together with other colleagues who left OpenAI, would be joining the company to lead a new advanced AI research team, However, Nadella said yesterday that he still wasn't ruling out Altman's return to his previous job. When asked whether Altman was actually joining Microsoft or returning to OpenAI, the CEO said he was "open to both options." He told Bloomberg that "irrespective of where Sam is, he's working with Microsoft."

Altman confirmed his return to OpenAI in a separate X post. "I love openai, and everything I've done over the past few days has been in service of keeping this team and its mission together. when I decided to join msft on sun evening, it was clear that was the best path for me and the team," he wrote. "with the new board and w satya's support, I'm looking forward to returning to openai, and building on our strong partnership with msft."

Nadella said the changes to the OpenAI board were encouraging and the first step to a more "stable, well-informed, and effective governance." He added that Altman and Brockman had key roles to play alongside the company's leadership team.

The Altman saga – we're presuming that most of it is over now – will certainly be a memorable one. Both sides have agreed to an investigation into the incident that will likely be carried out by a third-party law firm.

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