Sam Altman is set to return as CEO of OpenAI, following a recent boardroom turmoil. Former president Greg Brockman, who resigned in objection to Altman’s termination, will also be returning.
OpenAI announced late Tuesday that there is an “agreement in principle” for Altman’s return, with a new board consisting of Bret Taylor, Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo. D’Angelo, a holdover from the previous board, which dismissed Altman, is retained in the new board to provide representation for the previous board.
Sources familiar with the negotiations suggest that the immediate task of the new board is to select and appoint an expanded board of up to nine members to reshape the governance of OpenAI. Microsoft, a major investor, and Altman himself are both vying for a seat on the expanded board. During a recent press tour, CEO Satya Nadella emphasized the company’s desire to avoid any further “surprises.”
The very human power struggle at the center of all this seems not yet completely over
Both parties have agreed to conduct an investigation into this tumultuous series of events. It is expected that an independent law firm will carry out this investigation. From discussions with involved individuals, it appears that the very human power struggle at the core of this situation is far from resolved.
All involved parties have publicly acknowledged Altman’s return, which is reportedly a finalized agreement pending some administrative formalities. In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Altman stated, “Everything I’ve done over the past few days has been in service of keeping this team and its mission together.”
Thrive Capital, another major investor in OpenAI, hailed Altman’s return as “the best outcome for the company, its employees, those who build on their technologies, and the world at large.”
According to Thrive partner Kelly Sims: “OpenAI has the potential to be one of the most consequential companies in the history of computing. Sam and Greg possess a profound commitment to the company’s integrity, and an unmatched ability to inspire and lead. We couldn’t be more excited for them to come back to the company they founded and helped build into what it is today.”
Helen Toner, a key board member involved in the initial move to oust Altman, expressed relief by stating, “And now, we all get some sleep.”
Altman’s return is even more shocking than his sudden exit on Friday. OpenAI’s nonprofit board seemed resolute in its initial
The decision to remove Altman resulted in a swift shuffling of two CEOs in three days to avoid his reinstatement. During this time, OpenAI employees threatened to defect to Microsoft alongside Altman and co-founder Brockman if the board didn’t resign.
Since Altman’s dismissal on Friday, the board members who opposed him have yet to disclose detailed reasoning for his firing, even in the face of potential lawsuits from investors and employee walkouts. On Sunday, a pivotal board member, Ilya Sutskever, switched back to Altman’s camp after being persuaded by Brockman’s wife. Sutskever, who also serves as OpenAI’s chief scientist, flipping sides left the remaining three board members more vulnerable.
It’s been reported that interim CEO Emmett Shear, appointed on Sunday to replace the previous interim CEO Mira Murati, at one point threatened to resign unless the board could provide documentation or evidence of wrongdoing to support Altman’s firing. Following the news of Altman’s return being announced, Shear referred to it as “the pathway that maximized safety alongside doing right by all stakeholders involved. I’m glad to have been a part of the solution.”