When I wrote up the crazy weekend that ChatGPT makers OpenAI had on Monday, I assumed that with all the twists and turns, the story had reached its natural conclusion. The company’s ousted CEO Sam Altman, had joined Microsoft, and that seemed to be the end of it (and possibly OpenAI too).
But, no, apparently Altman is returning to OpenAI after all. So back to where we started, only with OpenAI looking a lot less secure of an investment than it was a week ago.
To pick up the story where we left off, after Microsoft — OpenAI’s biggest investor — had confirmed the hiring of the fired Altman, 505 of OpenAI’s 700 employees threatened to quit unless he was reinstated and the board replaced.
That seemed like quite a big ask, given Altman’s move to Microsoft had already been confirmed, but apparently not: they’ve got their wish. Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman, who had previously resigned in solidarity, have been reinstated with a new-look board of directors in place.
This board will apparently consist of Bret Taylor, Larry Summers and Adam D’Angelo, with The Verge reporting that both Microsoft and Altman himself are vying for a seat at the newly expanded table too. Only one of those names — D’Angelo — is a hangover from the previous board that fired Altman, which shows just how badly the plan backfired. That should make for an awkward first meeting, especially as the reasons for Altman’s firing still remain opaque.
How does Microsoft feel about losing its new hire? Pretty relaxed if CEO Satya Nadella’s tweet is anything to go by.
“We are encouraged by the changes to the OpenAI board,” he tweeted. “We believe this is a first essential step on a path to more stable, well-informed, and effective governance. Sam, Greg, and I have talked and agreed they have a key role to play along with the OAI leadership team in ensuring OAI continues to thrive and build on its mission.”
Plus, as several Twitter wags have pointed out, this means Altman doesn’t have to use Microsoft Teams.