By Meghna Deshraj

November 22, 2023

Sam Altman at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit last week. His return capped a frenetic five days that upended OpenAI, the maker of the ChatGPT chatbot. Credit... Carlos Barria/Reuters
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The recent upheaval at OpenAI, a leading AI firm known for its ChatGPT chatbot, culminated in the reinstatement of Sam Altman as CEO. This decision followed a tumultuous period marked by intense internal and external efforts to reverse his removal by the company’s board.

Altman’s reinstatement was accompanied by a significant restructuring of OpenAI’s board. Several members who had opposed him were replaced, with Adam D’Angelo of Quora remaining as the sole existing member. The new board includes high-profile figures like Bret Taylor, former Facebook executive and ex-co-CEO of Salesforce, and Lawrence Summers, ex-Treasury secretary.

This dramatic turn of events began with Altman’s unexpected dismissal, which prompted an outpouring of support from allies, employees, and investors. The board initially followed its decision but faced increasing pressure as Microsoft, a major investor, and OpenAI’s staff rallied behind Altman. In a striking move, most employees threatened to leave for Microsoft, where Altman and others were set to start a new AI lab, jeopardizing OpenAI’s future.

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The final board meeting saw key members, including Tasha McCauley and Helen Toner, stepping down to facilitate a “fresh start,” despite their initial support for Altman’s removal. The outgoing board had sought to limit Altman’s power, calling for an independent investigation into his leadership and blocking his and co-founder Greg Brockman’s board return.

Altman, expressing his commitment to OpenAI and its partnership with Microsoft, was officially reinstated late Tuesday. The news was well-received within the company, with employees who had been granted time off for Thanksgiving, closely following the developments and ultimately celebrating the decision.

The company, now valued at over $80 billion, continues to attract significant interest from investors like Thrive Capital, reaffirming their support in the wake of these events. Altman’s return marks a new chapter for OpenAI, poised to maintain its prominence in the AI landscape.

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About the author 

Meghna Deshraj

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