OpenAI brings back Sam Altman as CEO days after ouster

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman speaks during the OpenAI DevDay event on November 06, 2023 in San Francisco, California.

Justin Sullivan | Good pictures

Sam Altman will return as CEO of OpenAI, the startup announced on Twitter early Wednesday at X. The move follows huge pressure from employees and investors in the group Expelled A week ago he

Former Salesforce co-CEO Brett Taylor and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers will join OpenAI’s board, the Microsoft-backed startup said, with Taylor serving as chairman. Adam D’Angelo, co-founder and CEO of question-answer startup Quora, will remain on the board.

“We’re collaborating to figure out the details. Thank you very much for your patience through this,” OpenAI said. X post.

On Monday, hundreds of employees, including co-founder and board member Ilya Sutskever, signed a letter saying the majority would keep Altman at Microsoft if the board did not resign and bring him back.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a post on X on Monday that Altman and his co-founder Greg Brockman will work with Microsoft to create a new AI lab.

It was announced late Sunday that OpenAI had appointed former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear as Altman’s interim replacement. At first, the board said OpenAI chief technology officer Mira Murati would take on the role, but she soon joined the march of employees calling for Altman’s return.

“With the support of the new board and W Sathya, I look forward to returning to the Open and building on our strong partnership with MSFT,” Altman wrote in his own post on X.

Nadella praised the changes OpenAI made to his team X post.

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“We believe this is the first essential step on the road to more sustainable, well-informed and effective governance,” Nadella wrote. “Sam, Greg, and I spoke and agreed with the OAI leadership team that OAI will continue to thrive and play a critical role in ensuring 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.”

Altman’s swift overhaul became possible on Saturday after news broke a day earlier that a group of major investors including Microsoft, Tiger Global, Thrive Capital and Sequoia Capital had attempted to reverse the board’s decision. None of those companies had board seats and were caught unawares by the decision.

A Post on X On Saturday night, Altman wrote, “I really like the Open team.” Brockman, who left the company after the board removed him as chairman along with Altman’s ouster, retweeted the comment with a heart symbol. Other OpenAI employees did the same.

OpenAI, the world’s most popular startup this year after releasing its ChatGPT chatbot in late 2022, is said to be in talks last month to sell employee shares to investors at an $86 billion valuation. Retrieve intelligent and creative answers that lead to queries and more in-depth conversations.

Altman has led the company since 2019 and served as the high-flying company’s top executive and public face of artificial intelligence research and product development.

Unlike most Silicon Valley startups, OpenAI is not structured as a typical company with a large amount of shares controlled by the founders. Rather, it is a non-profit sector launched in 2015. The board oversees the nonprofit organization, which “serves as the overall governing body for all OpenAI activities,” according to a Friday blog post.

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Both Schutschaver and Brockman were part of OpenAI’s founding team. Original investors included Altman, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who reportedly gave $1 billion to the project.

“Back to OpenAI and back to coding tonight,” Brockman wrote early Wednesday morning. X post.

Soon after OpenAI’s team announced Altman’s firing, prominent Silicon Valley investors and founders voiced their concerns and drew comparisons to Apple’s decision 38 years ago to fire Steve Jobs. In 1997, Jobs returned and eventually Apple developed the iPhone and became the most valuable company in the United States.

“What happened today at OpenAI is that we haven’t seen a board coup since 1985 when the then-Apple board ousted Steve Jobs,” longtime startup investor Ron Conway said in an X. Mail. “It’s shocking; it’s irresponsible; it’s not done right by Sam & Greg or all the builders at OpenAI.”

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt called Altman “my hero” for building a company that “changed our collective world forever.” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky described Altman as “one of the greatest founders of his generation.” And venture capitalist Vinod Khosla called it a “once-in-a-generation CEO.”

Nadella, who made a surprise appearance at OpenAI’s developer conference earlier this month, was reportedly surprised and upset by the announcement. His company has invested billions of dollars in OpenAI and is a close technology partner, hosting many GPT workloads on its Azure cloud infrastructure.

“This is the path to doing the right thing and maximizing safety by all stakeholders involved,” Scheer said earlier Wednesday. X post. “I’m glad to be part of the solution.”

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— CNBC’s Jordan Novette contributed to this report.

See: Matrona’s Matt McElwain talks about Sam Altman’s departure as OpenAI CEO

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