OpenAI says Sam Altman to return as chief executive under new board

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Ousted OpenAI chief Sam Altman is poised to return to run the company under the supervision of a new board, following days of speculation and turmoil at the leading generative artificial intelligence start-up.

In a dramatic reversal, Altman, who was fired by OpenAI’s board of directors last week, will return to the helm of the high-profile AI start-up, the company said late on Tuesday in California.

Under an “agreement in principle”, he will serve under the supervision of a new board of directors, consisting initially of former Salesforce chief executive Bret Taylor as chair, former US Treasury secretary Larry Summers and Adam D’Angelo, an existing OpenAI board member and the chief executive of question-and-answer platform Quora.

“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,” Altman wrote on the social media site X in response to the announcement. “When I decided to join Microsoft on Sunday evening, it was clear that was the best path for me and the team.” Microsoft chief Satya Nadella hired Altman after he was sacked.

With the “support” of the new OpenAI board and Nadella, Altman said, he looked forward to “returning to OpenAI, and building on our strong partnership with Microsoft”.

Nadella said he was “encouraged by the changes to the OpenAI board” and believed that the decision was the “first essential step on a path to more stable, well-informed, and effective governance”.

Altman, alongside OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman, had “key” roles to play alongside the company’s leadership team, he added.

The about-turn follows intense talks between OpenAI’s former board of four directors and Altman, after more than 95 per cent of OpenAI employees signed a letter calling for the former chief executive’s reinstatement.

“We are collaborating to figure out the details. Thank you so much for your patience through this,” the company said.

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