Sam Altman makes triumphant return to OpenAI after days of chaos

Sam Altman looks on during the APEC CEO Summit at Moscone West on November 16, 2023 in San Francisco, California
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sam Altman is set to return to OpenAI in a huge reversal for the tech firm just days after he was sacked in a boardroom coup. 

Altman’s return to OpenAI has been agreed “in principle”, and will see the company appoint new board members as part of the move.

This will see former Salesforce co-CEO, Bret Taylor, appointed as chair of the board. Former US treasury secretary Larry Summers will also join the firm, OpenAI said in a statement.

“I am looking forward to returning to OpenAI,” Altman said in a post on X this morning.

“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.”

Complete chaos at OpenAI

 Altman’s return to OpenAI follows several days of chaos at the tech firm. The co-founder was abruptly removed from the company on Friday 17 November amidst claims that he was “not consistently candid with his communications with the board”. 

The tech firm initially stated chief technology officer Mira Murati would assume the role of chief executive on an interim basis, but later named former Twitch head Emmett Shear as its new CEO.

The sacking prompted a slew of resignations at OpenAI, including co-founder and president Greg Brockman and alongside a host of senior colleagues.

Microsoft, which has backed OpenAI to the tune of roughly $13 billion, was reportedly only told of the move to sack Altman minutes before the ill-fated board meeting on Friday.

CEO Satya Nadella is believed to have been “furious” at the decision.


Brain hovering above a chip on a motherboard, denoting AI and hardware

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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The chaos at OpenAI was further compounded when Nadella announced the shock appointment of Altman and Brockman at the tech giant. The duo joined the firm to lead a new “advanced AI research” team alongside staff who left OpenAI in their wake.

In his statement on X, Altman clarified the decision to join Microsoft on Monday, claiming it was “clear that was the best path for me and the team” at the time.

“With the new board and with Satya’s support, I’m looking forward to returning to OpenAI and building on our strong partnership with msft.”

OpenAI staff revolt

Altman’s unexpected removal caused uproar among staff at the AI firm. Some took to social media to express their concern at the move, while others threatened to join Microsoft or other industry competitors.

Before the most recent news, 738 of 770 employees had signed a letter saying they would leave the company unless the board resigned and Altman was reinstated as CEO. 

Among the signatories was Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI’s chief scientist, who was initially rumored to have been behind the boardroom revolt.

Ross Kelly
News and Analysis Editor

Ross Kelly is ITPro's News & Analysis Editor, responsible for leading the brand's news output and in-depth reporting on the latest stories from across the business technology landscape. Ross was previously a Staff Writer, during which time he developed a keen interest in cyber security, business leadership, and emerging technologies.

He graduated from Edinburgh Napier University in 2016 with a BA (Hons) in Journalism, and joined ITPro in 2022 after four years working in technology conference research.

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