The startup OpenAI announced early on Wednesday morning on X that Sam Altman will be returning to his role as CEO. The action was taken in response to intense pressure from the board’s investors and staff, who removed him less than a week ago.
The Microsoft-backed startup OpenAI announced that Bret Taylor, a former co-CEO of Salesforce, and Larry Summers, a former Treasury Secretary, will join the board. Taylor will serve as chair. The CEO and co-founder of the question-and-answer startup Quora, Adam D’Angelo, will continue to serve on the board.
Helen Toner, Tasha McCauley, and co-founder Ilya Sutskever were removed from the board at the same time that Altman returned. All had participated in Altman’s dismissal; however, Sutskever subsequently withdrew his endorsement of the coup and, as of Wednesday, he was still employed by OpenAI.
OpenAI said, “We are working together to resolve the specifics” In the X post, OpenAI expressed gratitude for the patience shown throughout.
Sutskever was among the hundreds of workers who signed a letter on Monday threatening to leave the company and join Altman at Microsoft if the board didn’t step down and reinstate him.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced on Monday in an X post that Altman and his co-founder Greg Brockman will be joining the company to establish a new AI lab. The news from OpenAI arrived early on Wednesday, and plans were already in place for that lab.
That came after OpenAI announced late on Sunday that Emmett Shear, the former CEO of Twitch, had been appointed as Altman’s temporary replacement. The board had initially stated that Mira Murati, Chief of OpenAI Technology, would take over in that capacity, but she quickly joined the chorus of workers demanding Altman’s return.
Altman posted on X, saying, “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.”
In his X post, Nadella praised the modifications that OpenAI had made to its board.
Nadella stated, “We think this is the first crucial step on a path to more stable, knowledgeable, and effective governance. After discussing it, Sam, Greg, and I decided that they, along with the OAI leadership team, must play a crucial part in ensuring that OAI prospers and advances its goals. We are eager to strengthen our close collaboration and provide our clients and partners with the benefits of this upcoming AI generation.”
As word spread on Saturday that a number of well-known investors, including Microsoft, Tiger Global, Thrive Capital, and Sequoia Capital, were attempting to overturn the board’s decision from the previous day, Altman’s swift reinstatement started to appear likely. Those businesses were taken aback by the decision because none of them held board seats.
Thrive released a statement saying, “OpenAI has the potential to rank among the most significant businesses in computer history. In addition to having an unrivaled capacity for inspiration and leadership, Sam and Greg have a strong dedication to the company’s values. We are thrilled for them to be back with the company they helped build into what it is today.”
“I love the openai team so much,” Altman wrote in a late-night post on X on Saturday. Brockman reshared the comment along with a heart symbol. Employees at OpenAI followed suit.
Brockman wrote, “Going back to OpenAI & getting back to coding tonight,” in an early Wednesday X post.
Altman, who created a business that “changed our collective world forever,” was hailed as a “hero of mine” by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Altman was called “one of the best founders of his generation” by Brian Chesky, the CEO of Airbnb. Vinod Khosla, a venture capitalist, added that he is a “once-in-a-generation CEO.”