In the latest instalment of the ludicrous soap opera that has been OpenAI over the past week, ousted CEO Sam Altman has agreed to return, rather than join Microsoft; with the company also installing a new board.
These new announcements may change overnight – The Stack increasingly takes the view that the situation is borderline unreportable and best just followed as it plays out on social media – but comes after most OpenAI staff threatened to resign unless Altman was reinstated as CEO.
“Returning to OpenAI and getting back to coding tonight” said co-founder Greg Brockman who had resigned in protest at Altman’s dismissal.
“We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D'Angelo. We are collaborating to figure out the details. Thank you so much for your patience through this” said OpenAI.
Bret Taylor is a former Meta CTO, Salesforce CEO and creator of Google Maps. Larry Summers is the former Treasury Secretary. Adam D’Angelo would be the only remaining member of the previous board – he is also a former Facebook CTO and the co-founder and CEO of the platform Quora.
The move comes after OpenAI investors ramped up pressure on stakeholders to hold OpenAI together after its staff looked set to follow Altman to Microsoft en masse. Companies from Salesforce to NVIDIA meanwhile had publicly attempted to lure in disgruntled OpenAI talent, as the company looked briefly set to fully implode after Altman’s dismissal.
OpenAI's outgoing board had posted Friday that Altman was “not consistently candid” with the board, “hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities” adding that it had lost confidence “in his ability to continue leading OpenAI" – several reports have suggested that Altman, who does not hold shares directly in OpenAI, was exploring forming a new company and Bloomberg reports that he had approached investors about creating a chip company to take on NVIDIA.)
Former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear, who had been oh-so-briefly appointed as OpenAI CEO said"I am deeply pleased by this result, after ~72 very intense hours of work. Coming into OpenAI, I wasn’t sure what the right path would be. This was the pathway that maximized safety alongside doing right by all stakeholders involved. I’m glad to have been a part of the solution."
OpenAI, in other news, says ChatGPT with voice is “now available to all free users. Download the app on your phone and tap the headphones icon to start a conversation” and cynics who feel that the entire imbroglio may have been the most colourful marketing ploy in living memory would no doubt be wrong, but also very much forgiven.