Sam Altman returns as CEO after being ousted by OpenAI

In a shock move, Sam Altman is reportedly being reinstated as CEO of the AI organisation, with questions concerning the company’s board, Microsoft and more

After a turbulent few days in the AI sector, Sam Altman is set to return to OpenAI as CEO, after being ousted last week by the company’s board of directors.

The decision for him to return comes after the company’s workforce of 750 signed an open letter threatening to leave the organisation unless the board reinstated Altman and then resign themselves afterwards.

If official, Sam Altman will be OpenAI’s fourth CEO in five days. He was initially replaced by Mira Murati, the company’s Chief Technology Officer, as a temporary successor before the board then hired Emmett Shear as the company's new interim CEO. 

OpenAI to conduct an investigation into Altman’s sacking

OpenAI will reportedly conduct an independent investigation into the sacking of Altman and its aftermath, amid much speculation over the state of the company’s executive board.

Changes are also expected in line with Altman’s return, with OpenAI saying in a preliminary statement on LinkedIn: “We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D'Angelo.”

There has not been a seat on the board announced for Microsoft, at the time of this article’s publication. Microsoft currently holds a 49% stake in OpenAI, after heavily investing earlier in 2023.

The company has seen several mass changes over the past few days, from hiring two different interim CEOs, to Sam Altman and Greg Brockman appearing to join Microsoft to head an AI research team.

Last week also saw numerous reports about the OpenAI board and their continuous debates behind the scenes. The New York Times had reported that the board had been arguing over the safe development of AI for more than a year, which included how to roll out the technology quickly and efficiently, but also trying to ensure that humans do not lose control of it.

Insights such as this offer a revealing look into how, when it comes to AI development, AI enterprises are working to strike a balance between business and human benefit.

For now at least, Sam Altman appears to be staying with the research organisation. He said in a post on X (formerly Twitter): “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.”

He continues: “When I decided to join msft on Sunday evening, it was clear that was the best path for me and the team, with the new board and [with Satya Nadella’s] support, i’m looking forward to returning to OpenAI, and building on our strong partnership with msft (Microsoft).”

Concerning Microsoft, it appears as though the company CEO Satya Nadella has been in talks with Altman and Brockman about the changes. Nadella said on X: “We are encouraged by the changes to the OpenAI board. 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.”

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