12 days of unemployment later, Sam Altman is officially back at OpenAI

Sam Altman addressed his employees in a company memo on Nov. 29, marking his official return to the top leadership position at OpenAI.

Sam Altman, one of the founders of OpenAI, has officially returned to office as the firm’s CEO, ending a whirlwind few weeks caused by his abrupt and unexpected temporary departure. 

Addressing OpenAI employees in a company memo made public on Nov. 29, Altman confirmed that interim CEO Mira Murati will step down from her position and return to her previous role as chief technology officer.

Altman also confirmed the new initial board, chaired by Salesforce CEO Bret Taylor, along with Larry Summers, who previously served as the United States Secretary of the Treasury, and Adam D’Angelo, the CEO of social question-and-answer website Quora. D’Angelo was on OpenAI’s board before the saga that unfolded in mid-November. Greg Brockman will also resume his role as OpenAI’s President.

“I have never been more excited about the future. I am extremely grateful for everyone’s hard work in an unclear and unprecedented situation, and I believe our resilience and spirit set us apart in the industry. I feel so, so good about our probability of success for achieving our mission,” said Altman to employees.

It was signaled to Altman that he would be reinstated as CEO on Nov. 22, only two days after he was initially fired. During that time, he agreed to lead a new advanced artificial intelligence (AI) research team at Microsoft under Satya Nadella’s leadership, but that presumably fell through.

Microsoft gets non-voting seat on OpenAI board

Altman revealed that Microsoft will also be included as a non-voting observer on the new board. 

“We clearly made the right choice to partner with Microsoft and I’m excited that our new board will include them as a non-voting observer,” he said. 

A board observer is an individual who is permitted to attend and participate in meetings of the board of directors, but as implied, has no voting rights, acting more as an advisor. 

Microsoft initially wasn’t expected to be offered a seat by OpenAI, according to a Nov. 29 report by Reuters, which cited a person familiar with the matter.

This is despite Microsoft having invested $13 billion into OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT, across several deals dating back to 2019.

Related: OpenAI halts new ChatGPT Plus sign-ups amid high demand

Looking ahead, Altman said he would be focused on advancing the firm’s research plan, improving its products, and better serving customers as the top three priorities for his (technically) second stint as CEO.

In the same official announcement, Taylor stressed OpenAI will “enhance the governance structure,” and put together “an independent committee of the Board to oversee a review of the recent events,” in effort to provide more stability to the firm. He hopes Microsoft’s addition to the board will help steady the ship.

“From technology to safety to policy […] we are pleased that this Board will include a non-voting observer for Microsoft,” he said.

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