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Sam Altman officially reinstated as OpenAI CEO, Microsoft gets observer seat on board

It’s official — OpenAI has formally reinstated Sam Altman as its Chief Executive Officer, marking the end of a tumultuous two weeks that saw Altman’s sudden firing and subsequent boardroom power struggle.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Altman announced the restoration of his role, alongside introducing a revamped initial board of directors. In a surprising turn of events, though, Microsoft Corp. has joined the board as a nonvoting observer, highlighting the tech giant’s increased involvement in OpenAI.

Mira Murati briefly served as interim CEO after Altman’s ousting and has been reinstated as the Chief Technology Officer. OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman, who resigned in protest over Altman’s firing, is set to return as the company’s president.

Microsoft, OpenAI’s largest investor, is now a non-voting observer on the board. The new board of directors includes Bret Taylor, former co-CEO of Salesforce Inc., as chairman; Larry Summers, former US treasury secretary; and Adam D’Angelo, CEO of Quora Inc. The primary task assigned to the directors is to build a more permanent board structure.

Altman expressed optimism about the future in the blog post, stating, “I have never been more excited about the future,” and expressing gratitude for the hard work put in during the uncertain situation.

Bret Taylor, in a note accompanying Altman’s post, emphasized the commitment of the new directors to create a “qualified, diverse board” and enhance OpenAI’s governance structure. The company has faced criticism for a governance structure that allowed the ousting of the CEO without consulting significant investors.

OpenAI, initially founded as a nonprofit research organization in 2015, later adopted a for-profit structure, attracting investments and partnerships with companies like Microsoft. The company is slated to be valued at $86 billion in a planned tender offer.

To stabilize the organization further, Taylor announced the formation of an independent committee to oversee a review of recent events. Altman welcomed the inquiry, stating that the new board members would handle it.

Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI’s chief scientist and co-founder, who played a role in Altman’s dismissal, won’t be on the board, but discussions are ongoing regarding his continued work at OpenAI.

Directors Helen Toner and Tasha McCauley have left the board. In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Toner mentioned her official resignation and affirmed her focus on AI policy, safety, and security.

Altman’s sudden dismissal on November 17 shocked the tech industry, leading to several events, including employee protests and board resignations. A deal was reached on November 21 to reinstate Altman and replace the board.

In his post, Altman outlined the company’s priorities, including advancing research, improving governance, and refocusing on products. Despite the recent leadership upheaval, Altman stated that OpenAI did not lose customers during his absence and return.

Looking ahead, Altman acknowledged feeling tired but expressed renewed excitement and conviction for the future of OpenAI.

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