On Wednesday, OpenAI announced that Sam Altman will return as CEO as the board members who fired him stepped down.
Altman’s return as the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) added another episode to the OpenAI issue that started with his abrupt firing. On Friday, Chief Scientist Ilya Sutskever and the three outside board members booted Altman and President Greg Brockman.
OpenAI, founded in 2015 as a nonprofit organization (NPO), employs a unique leadership structure. Its six-member board comprises Altman, Brockman, Sutskever, and three people outside the company.
Sutskever led the three external board members to dismiss Altman and Brockman using a four-vote majority. The move surprised investors as they received no prior notification of such an important decision.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also expressed disappointment, saying the terminations caught him off-guard. Microsoft is the biggest investor of the ChatGPT creator, injecting $13.00 billion for 49.00% ownership and a 75.00% profit share.
An uproar among stakeholders prompted OpenAI’s Interim CEO Mira Murati to offer Altman his former position back. However, insiders revealed that the latter set the resignation of the current board as a condition for his return.
The board members refused, citing difficulty in finding replacements. Negotiations broke down as a result, with OpenAI announcing on Sunday that Altman would not return.
A day later, Nadella revealed on X that Altman and Brockman will join Microsoft’s new advanced artificial intelligence (AI) research team. The news sparked fear among OpenAI’s investors and employees regarding the possibility of the US tech giant developing its version of ChatGPT.
Sam Altman and the Near Downfall of OpenAI
Late Monday night, OpenAI employees sent a letter to the board, warning to leave the company unless Sam Altman is reinstated. By the next day, 700 of the AI research and deployment company’s 770 employees had signed the petition.
Microsoft Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Kevin Scott also said on X that they would welcome resigning OpenAI employees with open arms. At risk of losing 90.91% of its employees, analysts were uncertain the ChatGPT maker could continue operating until the year-end.
With the company under threat of a complete collapse, Sutskever had a change of mind and joined the call for Altman’s return. A day later, OpenAI announced Altman’s return, to the delight of investors and employees.