By Leah Cruz
OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, announced the return of their CEO Sam Altman under a different board of directors on Nov. 21, just five days after he had been fired.
“We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board,” said the company in a statement.
Altman, who founded OpenAI in 2015 along with Elon Musk as a non-profit research lab, was fired by the company’s board of directors on Nov. 17, according to Reuters.
The company vaguely cited issues with Altman’s communication to the board as reasons for the decision.
"Altman's departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities," OpenAI stated on its blog.
Although a more clear reasoning was not provided by the board for the removal of Altman, NPR reported that board members were concerned that Altman was abandoning the company’s founding principles and was instead only focused on trying to commercialize AI products.
Just hours after the company’s CEO had been removed, OpenAI’s largest investor, Microsoft, hired both Altman and Greg Brockman, co-founder and president of OpenAI, to run an “advanced research lab” at Microsoft, according to the New York Times.
Altman commented on his time at OpenAI in a post on the social media platform X, saying “I loved my time at OpenAI. It was transformative for me personally, and hopefully the world a little bit.”
In a memo sent to staff of OpenAI shortly after Altman’s firing, Chief Strategy Officer Jason Kwon made mentions of an effort to bring back the company’s CEO and others who had resigned from the company in solidarity, according to The Guardian. Specifically, 702 out of OpenAI's 770 employees committed to leaving the company unless Altman was restored, according to an employee letter to the board of OpenAI.
“Your actions have made it obvious that you are incapable of overseeing OpenAI,” the letter read. “We are unable to work for or with people that lack competence, judgment and care for our mission and employees.”
A new board of directors was swiftly established and Altman was reinstated as the company’s CEO. Members of the new board include Larry Summers, former U.S. Treasury Secretary and Bret Taylor, former chairman of the board of Twitter.
In light of the power struggle, the new board of directors will revisit the company’s governance structure that gives the board of directors majority control and does not allow investors and shareholders to formally influence decisions, according to the New York Times.
With Altman rejoining OpenAI as the chief executive officer, the company intends to move forward in leading the global development of artificial intelligence.
“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,” Altman said in a post on X. “I’m looking forward to returning to OpenAI, and building on our strong partnership with msft [Microsoft].”