OpenAI's boardroom drama comes to an end as Sam Altman has agreed to return to his position as the CEO of the company. Earlier today, the AI startup announced the reversal, saying it has reached an "agreement in principle" to bring back the former chief executive after facing immense pressure from stakeholders and employees. Along with Altman, former OpenAI chair Greg Brockman, and other employees will also return.
We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D'Angelo.
We are collaborating to figure out the details. Thank you so much for your patience through this.
— OpenAI (@OpenAI) November 22, 2023
Altman was fired by the board on Friday after a deliberate review process, stating that he was "not consistently candid in his communications with the board." On Saturday, OpenAI's board, with the first interim CEO Mira Murati, reached out to Altman, negotiating the terms of his return, which included a change in governance that wasn't acceptable to the board.
Early on Monday, Microsoft announced hiring Altman, Brockman, and their colleagues to lead an AI research team. Shortly after, hundreds of OpenAI employees warned the board, through a letter, about a possible walkout if they didn't bring back Altman and Brockman and then resign. Meanwhile, the second interim CEO Emmett Shear asked the board to explain the sudden ouster.
Bret Taylor to serve as OpenAI's new chair
OpenAI's announcement also includes forming a new board consisting of the former co-chief executive of Salesforce, Bret Taylor, and retired United States Secretary of Treasury, Larry Summers. The third member is Qurora's CEO, Adam D'Angelo, who, per The Verge, remains to represent the previous.
Microsoft, which owns just about half of OpenAI, also wants representation on the board, which could expand to nine people. Further, both companies have agreed to have an independent law firm investigate the events that led to Sam Altman's firing and the other events that followed.
In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Altman acknowledged his return, saying he is "looking forward" to returning with the new board and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's support, who remains optimistic about Microsoft's partnership with OpenAI. "I have talked and agreed they have a key role to play along with the OAI leadership team," says Nadella.
We are 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. Sam, Greg, and I have talked and agreed they have a key role to play along with the OAI leadership team in ensuring... https://t.co/djO6Fuz6t9
— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) November 22, 2023
Meanwhile, Brockman wrote that he is returning to OpenAI and "getting back to coding tonight." Commenting on the development, the ex-interim CEO, Emmett Shear, said he is deeply pleased by the result.