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OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Rehired, Board Overhauled: Timeline, What Happened and What's Next

November 21, 2023 by Joe Panettieri

OpenAI has rehired Sam Altman as CEO and revised its board of directors, the ChatGPT and artificial intelligence (AI) software maker said via X.

The OpenAI board now features former Salesforce Co-CEO Bret Taylor (Chair), former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, and Quora founder Adam D'Angelo. As many as nine additional board members could be named, Bloomberg reported.

Serving All of Humanity vs. Serving Paying Customers

Altman's rehire arrived roughly four days after the software company fired Altman for vaguely disclosed reasons. The issue may have involved OpenAI's original board wanting OpenAI to fulfill its mission serving "all of humanity" while Altman increasingly focused on commercial business opportunities, Bloomberg speculated.

Microsoft -- which owns 49% of OpenAI -- stepped in and briefly hired Altman. But Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella hinted that he was open to Altman rejoining OpenAI -- if the ChatGPT software maker made governance changes to its business. Nadella's self-fulfilling prophecy came true within a day of that statement. Altman is now rejoining OpenAI.

OpenAI CEO Rehired, Board Shakeup: The Timeline

Here's a timeline of what happened, what's next, and why it matters for sustainable technology partners, green IT service providers and ChatGPT users.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman briefly joined Microsoft

Friday, November 17: OpenAI's board fired founder and CEO Sam Altman, stating "Mr. Altman’s departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities. The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI."

Friday, November 17: OpenAI's board named CTO Mira Murati as interim CEO, but the position lasted only about two days.

Mira Murati was briefly interim CEO, OpenAI

Friday, November 17: OpenAI’s board of directors during the firing included OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, independent directors Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, technology entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, and Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology’s Helen Toner.

Friday, November 17: OpenAI Co-founder and President Greg Brockman on X published a timeline that described how Altman was fired.

Saturday, November 18: OpenAI investors -- including Microsoft, Sequoia Capital, Tiger Global and Thrive Capital -- allegedly pushed to have Altman rehired as CEO of OpenA. The negotiations initially failed. As a reminder: Microsoft owns 49% of OpenAI.

Greg Brockman
OpenAI President Greg Brockman briefly joined Microsoft

Sunday, November 19: OpenAI named ex-Twitch boss Emmett Shear as interim CEO, The Information reported.

Monday, November 20: Microsoft hired Altman, Brockman and additional OpenAI veterans to "lead a new advanced AI research team," CEO Satya Nadella wrote on X.

Monday, November 20: Microsoft remains "committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners. We look forward to getting to know Emmett Shear and OAI's new leadership team and working with them," Nadella wrote on X.

Emmett Shear, interim CEO, OpenAI
Emmett Shear was briefly interim CEO, OpenAI

Monday, November 20: OpenAI Interim CEO Emmett Sheer described why he joined the company, and outlined a three-point plan for the next 30 days:

  • "Hire an independent investigator to dig into the entire process leading up to this point and generate a full report."
  • "Continue to speak to as many of our employees, partners, investors, and customers as possible, take good notes, and share the key takeaways."
  • "Reform the management and leadership team in light of recent departures into an effective force to drive results for our customers."

Monday, November 20: OpenAI could lose half of its business valuation because of the executive departures, Bloomberg Radio speculated.

Monday, November 20: Nearly 500 OpenAI employees say they may quit and join Sam Altman at Microsoft unless the startup's board resigns and reappoints the ousted CEO, Wired reported. The stance was outlined in a staff letter to the board. Murati -- the interim CEO for roughly two days -- was among the employees to sign the letter, Bloomberg Radio reported.

Monday, November 20: Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff offered to immediately employ OpenAI researchers that want to leave the AI software company, Bloomberg reported.

Monday, November 20: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella hinted that he is open to Altman rejoining OpenAI -- if the ChatGPT software maker makes governance changes to its business, according to a Bloomberg Radio interview.

Monday, November 20: OpenAI's board of directors approached rival Anthropic's CEO about replacing chief Sam Altman and potentially merging the two AI startups, Reuters reported. Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei declined to comment on the report.

Tuesday, November 21: Multiple OpenAI investors are still working to have Altman rejoin OpenAI as CEO, Bloomberg Radio reported.

Tuesday, November 21: OpenAI rehired Altman and shook up its board. The board now features former Salesforce Co-CEO Bret Taylor (Chair), former U.S. Treasury Leader Larry Summers, and Quora founder Adam D'Angelo. Additional board members are expected to be named. Multiple sources speculate that Microsoft will gain at least one board seat.

OpenAI CEO: Why It Matters to Sustainable Technology Partners, Green IT Service Providers

Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft

Artificial intelligence (AI) is both a blessing and a burden for sustainability strategies worldwide. On the upside, AI can help customers to accelerate and improve climate forecasting, risk forecasting and ESG applications. On the downside, AI applications consume lots of energy.

Indeed, AI could consume up to 3.5% of the world’s electricity by 2030, Gartner predicts. In terms of current projects, 73% of IT buyers are not completely prepared for the energy requirements of AI, research from Pure Storage and Wakefield Research finds. Moreover, 89% of IT buyers found ESG goals more difficult to meet as a result of upgrades to their IT infrastructure for AI adoption, Pure Storage and Wakefield added.

Aware of AI's opportunities and challenges, Microsoft issued an AI sustainability playbook on November 16, 2023.

Countering NVIDIA?: Among the next potential moves to watch: Microsoft has been developing AI chips to help reduce the company's dependence on Nvidia and other chip suppliers. Altman allegedly has been interested in developing AI chips as well...

Note: Blog originally posted 8:25am ET on November 20, 2023. Updated regularly thereafter.

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2 comments on “OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Rehired, Board Overhauled: Timeline, What Happened and What's Next”

  1. Maybe become re-interested in analog neuron chips, which appear to be disused in favor of DSPs from NVIDIA. See early 1990s papers by H P Graf especially

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