OpenAI Announces Sam Altman Is Returning as CEO With a 'New Board'

OpenAI has replaced almost all of the members of the board that fired former and now-current CEO Sam Altman.
OpenAI Announces Sam Altman Is Returning as CEO With a 'New Board'
Image: Sam Altman

After days of drama and chaos, OpenAI announced Tuesday night that Sam Altman, who the company's nonprofit board fired on Friday, is coming back as the company's CEO. The board that fired Altman is gone and will be replaced with a "new board" consisting of former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers, Quora CEO Adam D'Angelo, and Bret Taylor, who is the former co-CEO of Salesforce, cocreator of Google Maps, and former CTO of Facebook.

"We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D'Angelo," the company tweeted. "We are collaborating to figure out the details. Thank you so much for your patience through this."

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D'Angelo is the only member of the new board who was also on the board that ousted Altman last week. This is notable, because former board members Tasha McCauley and Helen Toner had close ties to the effective altruism movement that is obsessed with the possibility of AI-fueled apocalypse.

Greg Brockman, who was ousted Friday as well and Ilya Sutskever were members of the former board as well as OpenAI employees. OpenAI did not immediately say whether they would continue working at the company, though Sutskever has said that he originally helped oust Altman and Brockman and regretted the decision. Brockman was set to join Altman on a new project at Microsoft and presumably will also return.

Since Friday, here is a non-exhaustive list of what has happened: Altman was fired. The company installed Mira Murati as temporary CEO. Then it seemed like Altman would come back over the weekend. Those talks broke down, and different interim CEO, Emmett Shear, was announced. Microsoft then announced it hired Altman to start a new AI research program. That deal was announced, but apparently not final. Almost all of OpenAI's employees threatened to quit in an open letter. Then, a separate group of former OpenAI employees published a letter saying Altman should not be allowed to return. Now, Altman is not joining Microsoft and is indeed returning to OpenAI. Also, Larry Summers is now in the mix.

"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," Altman tweeted. "when i decided to join msft on sun evening, it was clear that was the best path for me and the team. 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."

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella tweeted that he hopes the new board will make OpenAI "more stable."

"We are encouraged by the changes to the OpenAI board," Nadella wrote. "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 OAI continues to thrive and build on its mission. We look forward to building on our strong partnership and delivering the value of this next generation of AI to our customers and partners."

To be determined: Whether San Francisco is getting any sleep tonight.