After a tumultuous few days, filled with drama and backroom deals, Sam Altman is back as CEO of OpenAI.
OpenAI shocked the industry when it fired Altman late last week. Co-founder and President Greg Brockman immediately resigned in protest, with both execs quickly being hired by Microsoft, OpenAI’s largest investor. Some 500 of the AI firm’s employees penned a letter to the board supporting Altman and threatening to follow him to Microsoft unless he was reinstalled as CEO.
According to The Verge, the OpenAI board has acquiesced and is preparing to reinstate Altman and Brockman to their previous positions. In addition, with the sole exception of Adam D’Angelo, the entire board will resign and make way for a new one composed of Bret Taylor, Larry Summers, and D’Angelo.
Sources told the outlet that D’Angelo is remaining to ensure the previous board has at least some representation, but the new board’s immediate purpose will be to vet and appoint additional members. The goal is to have a board of up to nine people — with both Microsoft and Altman wanting a seat on it – that will provide improved governance and accountability and ensure this debacle never happens again.
The deal comes on the heels of intense pressure on the OpenAI board for what was seen as nothing more than a boardroom coup, a coup that was ultimately undermined when Ilya Sutskever, believed to be one of its main architects, did an about-face:
I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company.
Ilya Sutskever (@ilyasut) – November 20, 2023
The board initially accused Altman of withholding information from them, but no evidence was ever presented to support those claims, even under threat of lawsuits from investors. In fact, The Verge reports that Emmett Shear, the second interim CEO appointed during the chaos, threatened to quit unless the board could present evidence of any wronging on Altman’s part.
Shear welcomed the outcome in a post on X:
I am deeply pleased by this result, after ~72 very intense hours of work. 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.
Emmett Shear (@eshear) — November 22, 2023
Shear’s sentiments were echoed by investors across the spectrum, with many breathing a sigh of relief that the ship was being righted at one of the most important firms in the AI industry.