Sam Altman’s surprising return as OpenAI CEO sends shockwaves through the tech world

(Bloomberg) — A stunning reversal has taken place at OpenAI, the company that has been the center of a drama that’s captivated Silicon Valley and the global AI industry.

Sam Altman is making a return as the chief executive officer, and the initial board will be led by Bret Taylor, a former co-CEO of Salesforce Inc. and director at Twitter before Elon Musk’s acquisition. The new board will also include Larry Summers, the US Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton, and existing member Adam D’Angelo, the co-founder and CEO of Quora Inc. OpenAI is now working to hash out the details, the company said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Sam Altman, who has been reinstated as CEO at OpenAI.
Sam Altman, who has been reinstated as CEO at OpenAI.

Sam Altman, who has been reinstated as CEO at OpenAI.

The reworked board may not be final. The main priority is to nominate and select up to nine new directors. According to a person with direct knowledge of the deliberations, board composition was a major sticking point throughout negotiations. They are still determining which members, aside from D’Angelo, who has been appointed, will stay on the new OpenAI board. Altman agreed not to be on the board initially in order to get the deal done, according to this person.

OpenAI’s biggest backer, Microsoft Corp., will likely have representation on the new board, certainly as a board observer and possibly with one or more board seats.

Altman’s return follows a roller-coaster few days that threw the world’s best-known AI startup into chaos. The two new board members hold appeal for Wall Street investors and the Silicon Valley crowd. Summers, a Harvard academic and regular Bloomberg TV contributor, sits on the board of several startups, including Jack Dorsey’s Block Inc. Taylor is a director at Shopify Inc. and helped steer the sale of Twitter to Musk last year, being a calming force during turbulent times.

OpenAI reached an agreement to reinstate its co-founder after four days of high-stakes negotiations, and after nearly all of its employees threatened to quit if Altman were not reinstated after his surprise ouster. His reinstatement triggered swift congratulations on X from key players in the saga including former president Greg Brockman — who said he too is returning to the company — and Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.


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