Sam Altman reinstated as CEO of OpenAI – The New York Times

Sam Altman was reinstated as CEO of OpenAI late Tuesday, the company said, successfully reversing his removal by the company’s board last week after a campaign by his allies, employees and investors.

The board is being overhauled and several members who had opposed Mr. Altman are fired. Adam D’Angelo, the CEO of Quora, will be the only holdover.

“We have reached an agreement in principle that Sam will return to OpenAI as CEO with a new board of directors including Bret Taylor (Chairman), Larry Summers and Adam D’Angelo,” OpenAI said in a statement Post on X. “We are working together to figure out the details. Thank you for your patience.”

The return of Mr. Altman and Greg Brockman, the company’s president, and the reshuffling of the board capped five hectic days that upended OpenAI, maker of the ChatGPT chatbot and one of the world’s best-known artificial intelligence companies.

The company’s new board includes Mr. Taylor, a former Facebook official and former co-chief executive of Salesforce; Mr. Summers, the former Treasury Secretary; and Mr. D’Angelo.

Mr. Taylor will serve as chairman, the company said.

Mr. D’Angelo led the negotiations, according to two people close to the board. The general framework for the changes took effect late Sunday, one of these people said.

Determining the composition of the board delayed the decision to leave Mr. Altman behind, this person and another person said. OpenAI called the new board its “original” board and hinted that it could be expanded.

A person close to the board’s deliberations on Tuesday said that Mr. D’Angelo, Tasha McCauley and Helen Toner demanded certain concessions from Mr. Altman, including an independent investigation into his leadership of OpenAI.

In the end, Ms. Toner and Ms. McCauley agreed to step down from the board because it was clear a fresh start was needed, said this person close to the deliberations. If they all resigned, they feared it would suggest the board had made a mistake, even though overall they felt they had done the right thing, this person said.

Microsoft, OpenAI’s largest investor, supported the move. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, said on He said Mr. Altman and Mr. Brockman should return to OpenAI.

OpenAI’s board surprised Mr. Altman and the company’s employees on Friday afternoon when it told him he was being kicked out. Mr. Brockman, who founded the company with Mr. Altman and others, resigned in protest.

The fall sparked efforts by the 38-year-old Mr. Altman, his tech industry allies and OpenAI employees to force the company’s board to bring him back. On Sunday evening, after a weekend of negotiations, the board said it would stick to its decision.

But in a stunning development just hours later, Microsoft, OpenAI’s largest investor, announced that Mr. Altman, Mr. Brockman and others would be joining the company to open a new advanced artificial intelligence lab.

Most of OpenAI’s more than 700 employees signed a letter telling the board that they would leave Mr. Altman and follow him to Microsoft if he was not rehired, putting the startup’s future in jeopardy.

“I love Openai and everything I have done in the last few days has been to keep this team and its mission together,” Mr. Altman said in one Post on X. “With the new board and the support of W Satya, I look forward to returning to OpenAI and building on our strong partnership with MSFT.”

Four board members – Ilya Sutskever, an OpenAI founder; Mr. D’Angelo; Ms. Toner, director of strategy at the Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology; and Ms. McCauley, an entrepreneur and computer scientist, had initially decided to oust Mr. Altman from office.

But as the workers’ revolt grew, Mr. Sutskever said in a message on X: “I deeply regret my involvement in the board’s actions.” He also signed the letter. Now that Mr. Altman has been rehired and a new board has been installed, Mr. Brockman, who has worked closely with Mr. Altman for more than a decade, will also return to OpenAI. Mr. Sutskever is no longer on the board, but remains an employee of OpenAI.

“Ilya is thrilled that Sam is back as CEO and he has worked tirelessly for days to make this happen,” said Alex Weingarten, Mr. Sutskever’s lawyer. “It’s what’s best for the company.”

OpenAI employees celebrated a return to normality on Tuesday evening after five days of uncertainty. Workers had been given a week off for Thanksgiving, but many stayed in the office or sat in front of their screens to watch the drama. “Thank God,” said one employee. “We’re so back,” said another.

Thrive Capital, which is leading a new financing offering that will value OpenAI at more than $80 billion, said it will continue to work with OpenAI “now and in the future.”

Sam Altman called the New York Times and said, “I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.


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