In a dramatic reversal from the events of the past week, Sam Altman, recently ousted CEO of ChatGPT developers OpenAI, will be reinstated in his role at the artificial intelligence company.
Most of the OpenAI board that had dismissed him will also be going, and a new interim board has been appointed: Bret Taylor, former co-CEO of Salesforce, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, and Quora co-founder and CEO Adam D’Angelo—who served on the previous board. OpenAI is still in talks to finalize the details of the new arrangement, it said in a post on X.
The reversal will have come after sustained pressure from the investors in OpenAI, particularly Microsoft, which had offered Altman and OpenAI board president Greg Brockman (who is also returning to his CTO role at the company) positions at a new in-house AI research unit.
“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 Microsoft on Sunday evening, it was clear that was the best path for me and the team. With the new board and with [Microsoft CEO] Satya’s support, I’m looking forward to returning to OpenAI and building on our strong partnership with Microsoft,” Altman posted yesterday on X.
The priorities of the new interim board will be to undertake a selection process to recruit up to nine new directors, Bloomberg reported today. Having spoken with unnamed people with knowledge of the negotiations, they noted that it was likely that Microsoft, as a major investor, would have strong representation on the new board. Altman, who has agreed not to take up a seat on the new board as it begins, would be likely to join at a later date—and has consented to an internal investigation of the unspecified course of conduct that led to his dismissal last week, according to the report.
Today’s developments follow four days of negotiations between Altman, the old board, and Microsoft in the wake of an open letter signed by over 700 OpenAI employees supporting Altman and threatening to walk out if he wasn’t reinstated. Investor confidence in OpenAI and Microsoft has responded favorably to today’s developments, with Microsoft shares at $378 after Thursday’s sharp, short dip as low as $314.
Altman and Brockman have expressed their keenness to get back to work. “Returning to OpenAI & getting back to coding tonight,” Brockman said in a post on X late last night.
Meanwhile, OpenAI leadership is encouraging staff to focus on the core task of developing their product, with an internal memo from VP of Product Peter Deng, shared with Bloomberg, exhorting the team to “get back to shipping.” OpenAI’s flagship ChatGPT chatbot announced today that it is enabling voice inputs—and audio responses—for all users, not just those who pay a subscription for the service. In its announcement, OpenAI obliquely referenced the tumult of the last few days. In an X post demonstrating the feature, an OpenAI employee asked: “It’s been a long night for the team, and we’re hungry. How many 16-inch pizzas should I order for 778 people?”