After being ousted as CEO of OpenAI last week by the company's board, Sam Altman was reinstated to the position late Tuesday following an impassioned campaign by his allies, employees, and investors. The reinstatement caps a tumultuous five days that shook the artificial intelligence firm, maker of the popular ChatGPT chatbot.
In a post on X, Altman expressed his motivation behind the dramatic events: "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 Microsoft on Sunday evening, it was clear that was the best path for me and the team."
OpenAI said in a post to X, "We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board. We are collaborating to figure out the details."
As part of the agreement for Altman's return, OpenAI's board will be remade without several members who had opposed him. The new board will consist of Bret Taylor as Chair, along with Larry Summers and Adam D'Angelo.
Altman added in his post: "With the new board and Satya [Nadella]'s support, I’m looking forward to returning to OpenAI, and building on our strong partnership with Microsoft."
The unexpected return of Altman to the CEO post, along with the impending shakeup of OpenAI's board, capped off a whirlwind, chaotic five days that left the prominent AI firm reeling.
The drama was sparked last Friday when OpenAI's board stunned Altman and employees by abruptly informing their CEO he was out. In a show of solidarity, president and co-founder Greg Brockman soon resigned in protest of Altman's controversial ouster.
This then kicked off a frenzied campaign by Altman, his powerful allies in tech, and OpenAI's own staff to reinstate him over the weekend. But despite intense lobbying, the board doubled down Sunday night on its decision to remove the CEO.
In a surprising turn of events mere hours later, Microsoft, the primary investor in OpenAI, announced that Altman, Brockman, and other key figures would be joining forces to establish a cutting-edge artificial intelligence lab within the company.
Almost every one of OpenAI's over 700 staff members penned a letter to the board, stating their intention to leave and join Altman at Microsoft if his reinstatement did not occur, putting the future of the startup in a precarious position.
Initially, four board members—namely, Ilya Sutskever, a founder of OpenAI; Adam D’Angelo, the CEO of Quora; Helen Toner, a director of strategy at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology; and Tasha McCauley, an entrepreneur and computer scientist—had chosen to advocate for Altman's removal.
However, as the employee protest gained momentum, Sutskever expressed remorse in a message on X, stating, "I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions." He subsequently added his signature to the letter.
The relentless pressure continued building behind the scenes, however, ultimately forcing the board's startling reversal late Tuesday that restored Altman to power, for now.
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