Sam Altman to return to OpenAI – days after he was fired


OpenAI announced in a tweet Tuesday evening that it had “reached an agreement in principle” for ousted CEO Sam Altman to return to the company. The arrangement will entail a new initial board, including former Salesforce executive Bret Taylor, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and current board member and Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo.
OpenAI CEO Samuel Altman Testifies To Senate Committee On Rules For Artificial Intelligence

Former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman was abruptly fired from the company last week.

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Altman also tweeted about the agreement, writing: “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.” Greg Brockman, who had resigned as president after his removal from OpenAI’s board of directors on Friday, added: “Amazing progress made today. We will come back stronger & more unified than ever.” Brockman later posted he was returning to the company and “getting back to coding tonight.”

Per the announcement, this transitional board’s role would be departing the OpenAI board would be Helen Toner, Tasha McCauley and OpenAI cofounder Ilya Sutskever. D’Angelo is the lone member to retain a seat of those who voted to remove Altman from the company last Friday. Toner broke her public silence to share the news, writing on X with a sleeping face emoji: “And now, we all get some sleep.”

It was unclear as of early Wednesday morning whether Sutskever would remain at the company. Sutskever retweeted both OpenAI’s and Altman’s posts.

Microsoft was not set to take a board seat with the news, but CEO Satya Nadella wrote in a statement that the tech giant — which has committed to invest more than $10 billion into OpenAI — was “encouraged by the changes to the OpenAI board. We believe this is a first essential step on a path to more stable, well-informed, and effective governance.”

The move caps a stunning four days since Altman was ousted on Friday, sending one of the industry’s most powerful AI companies into a tailspin. After the board fired Altman, Brockman resigned as president in protest. Emmett Shear, the former CEO of Twitch, was installed by the board as interim CEO late Sunday night after talks to reinstate Altman broke down. More than 95% of the company signed an open letter threatening to quit if the board did not resign. Meanwhile, Nadella announced that Altman and Brockman would join Microsoft to start a new advanced research arm, though walked back his statement on Monday afternoon as Altman continued to negotiate with the OpenAI board.

“When I decided to join [Microsoft on [Sunday] evening, it was clear that was the best path for me and the team,” Altman added. “With the new board and [with] Satya’s support, I’m looking forward to returning to OpenAI, and building on our strong partnership with msft.”

Shear, who was interim CEO for a little over 48 hours, appeared to accept the turn of events. “I am deeply pleased by this result, after ~72 very intense hours of work,” Shear posted after the announcement. “Coming into OpenAI, I wasn’t sure what the right path would be. This was the pathway that maximized safety alongside doing right by all stakeholders involved. I’m glad to have been a part of the solution.”

D’Angelo, the founder of question-and-answer site Quora, was chief technology officer of Facebook in its early days. Per reports, he was the OpenAI board’s key negotiator in talks to bring back Altman. Taylor, meanwhile, stepped down as co-CEO of Salesforce in January and reportedly raised money for his own AI startup earlier this year. Taylor also held the CTO role at Facebook in the late 2000s and chaired the board of directors at Twitter until October 2022, and this past June joined the board of Shopify.

Summers served as the Secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton administration and was president of Harvard University. In a television interview last December, he compared OpenAI’s breakout AI chatbot ChatGPT to the invention of the printing press and wheel, or the discovery of fire.

OpenAI’s post on X about the news was edited: the original referred only to “Sam” coming back, before it was edited to include his last name. After an eventful few days that captivated the tech community, it may not have been necessary.

This story is developing… More to come.

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