Altman Back as CEO of OpenAI

Capping a chaotic five days of internal combustion, OpenAI has reinstated Sam Altman as CEO.

The company posted an update on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday evening indicating that it had reached "an agreement in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO."

Altman was unceremoniously fired from OpenAI on Friday by a board that reportedly objected to his full-bore approach to generative AI development and what it saw as the commercialization of a, technically, nonprofit business. (Publicly, however, it gave no specific reason.)

That board has now been radically overhauled. Erstwhile members Tasha McCauley (tech entrepreneur), Helen Toner (director at the Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology) and Ilya Sutskever (OpenAI chief scientist, co-founder and the presumed architect of Altman's ouster) are no longer on the roster. The only holdover is Quora CEO Adam D'Angelo. Newly added as of Tuesday are former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and former Salesforce CEO Bret Taylor as chairman.

Former OpenAI president Greg Brockman, who had quit on Friday in support of Altman, has also been rehired. "Returning to OpenAI & getting back to coding tonight," he posted on X late Tuesday.

For a brief moment after their departures from OpenAI, both Altman and Brockman became Microsoft employees. Redmond, which has a 49 percent interest in OpenAI, hired Altman and Brockman on Sunday to lead a "new advanced AI research team" within the company. 

Even then, however, the scuttlebutt was that Altman was seriously considering a return to OpenAI. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella seemed aware of this possibility, as indicated by statements he made during interviews Monday. Now, with Altman being reinstated at OpenAI and its board having been revamped, Nadella said he is "encouraged."

"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," Nadella wrote on X. "We look forward to building on our strong partnership and delivering the value of this next generation of AI to our customers and partners." 

Altman, for his part, indicated that he has accepted his old job at OpenAI with Nadella's backing. 

"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. When I decided to join MSFT on [Sunday] evening, it was clear that was the best path for me and the team," Altman wrote on X Tuesday evening. "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."  

Since its board fired Altman on Friday, OpenAI has been beset by criticism -- much of it coming from within its own walls. Over 700 OpenAI employees had vowed to walk out of their jobs unless Altman was reinstalled as CEO and the board was reconstituted, and some of OpenAI's investors were reportedly considering taking legal action against it.  

For now, at least, those crises have been averted. 

About the Author

Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editorial director of Converge360.