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The Exit and Return of Sam Altman to OpenAI: A Complete Timeline

return of sam altman to openai

Are you curious about the chaotic timeline that led to the return of Sam Altman to OpenAI CEO? In November 2023, news broke out that Altman was ousted from OpenAI in a shock board decision.

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However, after much negotiation, he eventually returned a few weeks later to his position at the helm of one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent AI startups. This blog post will provide an engaging exploration into the entire timeline and array of events pertaining to Altman’s exit and eventual return, along with some potential implications for OpenAI’s future.

From internal management issues between board members and key employees staging a revolt to serious safety concerns about artificial intelligence, we’ll explore it all here!

Content Highlights

  • Sam Altman was suddenly removed from his CEO role at OpenAI in November 2023, causing significant speculation and tension on the Board of Directors.
  • Microsoft released a statement detailing its involvement with OpenAI, which included accelerating innovation and exploring research within advanced artificial intelligence (AGI).
  • The all-hands meeting held by the company caused two board members to resign, while Greg Brockman stepped down from his CEO position.
  • Sam Altman is now planning a new venture that revolves around AI products based on natural language processing and computer vision.

November 16, 2023: Altman’s Firing and the Fallout Begins

Altman's Firing

On this date, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman was informed of his firing by Mira Murati, leading to a flurry of reactions and consequences.

Ilya Sutskever schedules a call with Altman

On the evening of November 16th, 2023, prominent AI researcher Ilya Sutskever scheduled a call with Sam Altman in advance of an upcoming all-hands meeting at OpenAI. This call was the first indication of trouble within the company, as rumors began to swirl that something was amiss.

Additionally, CEO Greg Brockman had informed Mira Murati, head of policy and communications at OpenAI, of a significant change involving Altman prior to any official announcement.

The significance of this particular development lies not only in its implications for Altman’s future career but also in what it illustrates about how quickly news can spread and rumors spiral out in such dynamic industry environments.

Murati told of Altman’s firing

On November 16th, 2023, OpenAI’s co-founder and former CEO, Sam Altman, was fired by the board of directors. After hearing about Altman’s ousting from his post as CEO, Ilya Sutskever organized a call with him to discuss what had happened.

Later that day, Murati was summoned by the board of directors with an invitation he couldn’t refuse; they told him that Altam had been removed from his position and replaced by Interim CEO Richard Muller.

This news came as a shock to many staff members who were confounded at first but could eventually understand why the decision was made given their disagreements with certain decisions surrounding OpenAI’s research agenda spearheaded by their ‘overlords’ Microsoft.

The firings prompted rising tensions within the company between employees who sided with either party, which ultimately led to some resignations, while other open AI staffers planned revolts in solidarity against other board members’ actions, such as Brockman being demoted from executive chairman without warning.

November 17, 2023: The All-Hands Meeting and Microsoft’s Involvement

On this day, OpenAI held an employee-wide meeting that included a discussion of Altman’s proposed termination from the company, and Microsoft also released an official statement regarding its involvement with OpenAI.

All-hands meeting at OpenAI

On November 17, 2023, OpenAI held an all-hands meeting to address the sudden firing of Sam Altman from his position as Chief Executive Officer. The meeting was also attended by representatives from Microsoft, a key investor in OpenAI and business partner of Altman’s previous venture, Y Combinator.

At the meeting, it was announced that due to irreconcilable differences between Altman and some board members, he had been asked to step down as CEO and remain on as a technical advisor on AI safety issues.

Furthermore, co-founder Greg Brockmann was demoted from his leadership role, and Ilya Sutskever would serve as interim CEO while the company looked for a permanent Chief Executive Officer.

Following this announcement, two of the six board members resigned from their positions at OpenAI. Jamie Miller and Jack Clark left shortly after due to disagreements with how Sam Altman’s removal had been handled by remaining directors Akash Nagpal and Adam D’Angelo.

Microsoft released a statement

On November 17, 2023, Microsoft weighed in on the news of Sam Altman and Greg Brockman’s move to Microsoft’s new AI research team with a statement that clarified their role and purpose.

The statement highlighted the importance of accelerating innovation and furthering research within the field of advanced artificial intelligence (AGI). It also referenced OpenAI’s existing expertise as an asset conducive to driving progress toward networks capable of human-level understanding.

In order for this vision to be achieved, they said it was “critical that our decision-making be multifaceted and account for multiple stakeholders, including those at OpenAI.” While Microsoft’s involvement may lead to OpenAI becoming a larger entity in the future, employees should not expect any immediate changes or layoffs as no formal agreement has been announced yet.

November 18, 2023: Brockman Quits and Altman Plans for a New Venture

On this day, Greg Brockman resigned from his position at OpenAI, and Sam Altman announced that he was planning a new venture.

Brockman demoted

On November 18, 2023, OpenAI announced that CEO Greg Brockman would be stepping down from his position and alt-founder Sam Altman would return to the company as chief executive. This came after news of Altman’s firing by the board on November 16 surfaced only a day before an emergency all-hands meeting was scheduled at OpenAI, where Microsoft released its statement of support for Altman in regard to his being replaced.

Altman’s firing was publicly announced

On November 18th, OpenAI announced the termination of its CEO, Sam Altman, following a board meeting. The statement declared that “The Board has concluded it is in the best interest of OpenAI to move in a new direction.” This abrupt decision came after weeks of tension between Altman and some members of the board and investors over his management style, as well as internal struggles on how to balance safety with innovation within AI development effectively.

Following the announcement, Ilya Sutskever quickly convened an all-hands meeting to discuss what happened leading up to Altman’s departure. Microsoft also released a statement recognizing their support for OpenAI’s ongoing mission under its new leadership level while noting they are looking forward to working together in an expanded capacity with Sutskever at its helm going forward.

Altman is planning a new venture

After his firing from OpenAI on November 16, 2023, Sam Altman made plans for a new venture with the potential to shape the future of artificial intelligence (AI) and the overall innovation landscape.

According to sources close to him, Altman is contemplating creating an AI company that focuses on building accessible products around natural language processing and computer vision.

His foray will seek to revolutionize these two areas by leveraging insights gained from his time at OpenAI as well as exploring new technologies. If successful, this would represent substantial progress in terms of modifying AI-powered solutions for mainstream integration into everyday life.

By successfully commercializing these applications, it could potentially result in groundbreaking development surrounding GPT-5—OpenAI’s most powerful model yet—and other deep learning models like it.

November 19, 2023: Negotiations and Tensions on the Board

On November 19, the OpenAI board attempted to negotiate with Altman as tension brewed over his future role at the company.

Altman to meet at OpenAI HQ

On November 19th, negotiations concerning Sam Altman’s departure from OpenAI intensified as he was invited to meet with the OpenAI board at their headquarters in San Francisco. With rumors flying that a merger between OpenAI and Anthropic Technologies was imminent, the meeting sought to resolve any tensions or disagreements over how best to move forward.

The goal of this meeting seemed very much up in the air; while some had hopes of reaching an agreement on Altman returning as CEO again soon, others thought his return seemed increasingly unlikely.

To make matters worse for internal morale, many employees expressed discontent and threatened to resign if Altman wasn’t reinstated swiftly, and past board members were forced out. Ultimately, though, it would be through difficult negotiation at Altman’s meeting that a way forward may be found that all parties could agree upon, allowing both progress on innovation within AI technology without troubling risks associated with such rapid advancement being taken too lightly.

Board negotiations hit a snag

Altman had been scheduled to meet at OpenAI’s headquarters on November 19th. However, the board and former employees were still locked in an ongoing dispute about who should be reinstated and what roles they would have within the company. Tensions between players on both sides increased as it became apparent that significant changes in power imbalance needed to happen for a resolution to be reached.

Key divisions of labor demands put forward by Altman formed part of these heated negotiations, which resulted in a stalemate and further compounded existing divisions among senior personnel at OpenAI.

Some saw Shear’s appointment as executive chairman as tipping the balance of power towards entrepreneurs without prior experience working at Microsoft, while others viewed his rejoining with cautious optimism given his past successes while leading Twitch Interactive Inc.

Altman out, Shear in

After prolonged negotiations between Altman and OpenAI’s board of directors, it was determined that Dario Amodei—former COO at the AI company—would take over as CEO. This decision came following a series of revelations regarding Altman’s motivations for pushing the growth of OpenAI too quickly and without taking into account the risks associated with advancing artificial intelligence technology too hastily.

In response to his removal from CEO-level responsibilities, many staff members threatened in an open letter to resign unless both those who dismissed him resigned their positions on the board.

On top of other concerns voiced by employees, this resulted in growing tensions among board members, culminating in a unanimous vote to replace Altman with Shear as the leader at OpenAI.

November 20, 2023: Altman Joins Microsoft and Internal Upheaval

Altman Joins Microsoft

On the 20th of November, Sam Altman joined Microsoft, resulting in several OpenAI employees resigning due to internal upheaval. Read on to find out more.

Altman joins Microsoft

After his firing from OpenAI, Sam Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman were hired by Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team. This move caused an uproar among OpenAI staffers, which resulted in the signing of an open letter with almost all 800 employees stating that they would quit and follow Altman to Microsoft unless those members of the board who dismissed him reinstated him and resigned.

It was clear that many felt these actions showed gross negligence in understanding their responsibilities as a leader. After much negotiation between Altman and the Hawke’s Bay Board, both parties came to an agreement resulting in his return as CEO, but not before causing disruption amongst staff with accusations over mismanagement, escalating tensions, and even some resigning from their posts at OpenAI due to frustration with leadership decisions.

This tumultuous event acts as a reminder of just how fragile our cutting-edge tech research relies upon successful collaborations between industry experts—something we must strive for if we are ever going to succeed in advancing artificial general intelligence (AGI).

Sutskever’s mea culpa

Under the tumultuous circumstances of Sam Altman’s firing from OpenAI, chief scientist Ilya Sutskever conducted an all-hands meeting with the remaining employees. During this call, he made a public acknowledgment and apology (mea culpa) on behalf of himself and other board directors for “contributing to this chaotic situation,” a move that surprised many considering his traditionally neutral role in decision-making.

Sutskever’s apology was seen as an attempt to unify remaining staff recently left disheartened by controversial decisions emanating from the board level, as well as classic power struggles visible between key stakeholders.

Implicitly linking Sam Altman’s departure closely to his own personal action or inaction, Sutskever took responsibility for any negative effect that had been felt deep within the organization in order for affected parties to reconcile their differences and progress towards a common goal.

Employees threaten to resign

Upon hearing of Altman’s firing, his longtime friend and coworker, Ilya Sutskever, held a call with him to show solidarity. Two influential board members, Greg Brockman and Ali Murati, were both informed by Dario Amodei of the decision to replace Altman as CEO but not consulted about it beforehand.

The next day, during an all-hands meeting, employees were told that Microsoft had joined OpenAI in order to collaborate on AI development initiatives, which they initially perceived as a favorable announcement.

However, after Tamani Sato announced that Sam was leaving OpenAI permanently and that he was stepping down from the role of CTO due to parent company Stripe, pressure began mounting among staff for concrete action.

This combination of these events gave rise to an immediate employee revolt—nearly 800 staffers either threatened or said they would follow Altman if he wasn’t reinstated as CEO or some equitable resolution couldn’t be reached between him and the board.

November 21, 2023: Altman and OpenAI Reach an Agreement on the Return

On November 21, 2023, Altman and OpenAI reached an agreement on his return as CEO following a tumultuous week of board negotiations. The newly negotiated terms included a new board to oversee the company’s operations.

Sam Altman, OpenAI, reached an agreement on his return as CEO and the ‘initial’ new board.

After months of negotiations, Sam Altman and OpenAI reached an agreement on his return as CEO with a reshuffling of the board. As part of the deal, several directors who had opposed Altman’s ousting earlier in November 2020 resigned or were removed from the board.

The new lineup includes trustees Anna Patterson and Sundar Pichai; advisor Meena Harris, niece of US President-elect Joe Biden; plus Jake Klamka and Daniel Singer.

OpenAI’s Board of Directors ousted Altman after he allowed Microsoft to invest around $1 billion for exclusive access to their proprietary technologies, through which they could create a competing AI venture under Microsoft that was independent of OpenAI.

This decision caused substantial negative backlash within the company, as many original employees left or threatened to resign unless Altman was reinstated and provisions were made for continued OpenAI autonomy from Microsoft’s competition.

Altman and board in talks

After discussions began between Sam Altman and the OpenAI board, tensions initially seemed to mount. After Altman’s firing was publicly announced on November 18, 2020, the board and former CEO had intense negotiations regarding his potential reinstatement as CEO or at least as a board member of OpenAI.

The key factor in Altman’s return to power was centered around reassuring both employees that he would still be their leader while addressing some of the concerns surrounding AI technology risks and focusing on business growth raised by the board.

To this end, both parties eventually agreed upon a new position that allowed for an initial appointment to a reborn board with oversight from Microsoft researcher Eric Horvitz and other industry leaders.

As part of this agreement, it was also declared that during his tenure as CEO, he will take no profits from the company but remain unpaid and accessible to all OpenAI staff in order to keep them informed about progress being made.

Board tensions boil over

In the weeks following Altman’s initial firing, tensions between OpenAI’s board and its CEO increased. On November 18th, after negotiations with Microsoft fell apart, Brockman was demoted from his role as Chairman of the Board, while Altman publicly announced his plans to found a new venture outside of OpenAI.

The day afterwards, on November 19th, news broke that Altman would be meeting at the OpenAI headquarters to discuss his possible return. While discussions were ongoing, however, two key negotiating points became sticking points, one of which involved former CFO Murati, who had been told about Altman’s termination before it went public, disqualifying any deal struck between them.

In response to these issues, Shear took over as chairman on an interim basis and abruptly ended talks with Altman until later that night, when he joined Microsoft instead of returning to OpenAI.

Altman’s Return as CEO and the Uncertain Future of OpenAI

Following extensive negotiations, Sam Altman and OpenAI announced an agreement for his return as CEO and the formation of an ‘initial’ new board.

OpenAI staffers resigned

In response to the board’s decision to remove Sam Altman as CEO, almost 800 employees at OpenAI signed an open letter threatening mass resignation. This move was in protest against what they interpreted to be a lack of transparency and disregard for their input regarding the leadership change, among other issues.

The result was a timeline full of back-and-forth between the board, Altman himself, and OpenAI employees. The situation reached a boiling point when it seemed that his dismissal would become permanent without any meaningful action from the board or further negotiations with Altman.

In response, staff members began resigning en masse in order to follow Altman elsewhere, while others chose to rally behind efforts led by long-time Artificial Intelligence (AI) researcher Ilya Sutskever and demand plans for addressing their grievances before continuing their work at OpenAI.

Altman was ousted from OpenAI in a shock board decision

The OpenAI community was surprised on November 16, 2023, when the board of directors made the decision to remove Altman as chief executive. It soon became evident that the growing rift between Altman and the other board members was what had led to his firing.

These internal disagreements reportedly stemmed from clashes over how to best balance technology risks with business growth goals for AI development. Amidst this tumultuous climate in the company, staff members issued an ultimatum threatening to walk away from their jobs if they did not see actions taken toward reassuring them of OpenAI’s commitment to safety standards, namely, reinstating Sam Altman and replacing certain board members.

Negotiations ultimately led to an agreement between both parties for Altman’s return as CEO alongside new alternative board members; however, it is unclear what effect these changes will have on current staff morale within OpenAI or its research initiatives going forward.

The OpenAI board was optimistic about the return of Sam Altman to OpenAi

When Sam Altman was ousted from his role as CEO of OpenAI, many were left wondering what the company’s future would be. However, it quickly became clear that only one person would be able to lead OpenAI: Altman himself.

Thanks to negotiations between parties and a discussion on the appropriate direction for OpenAI, the board announced its optimism about getting Altman back at the helm. News of numerous resignations by employees due to prior tension within the boardroom and insights into proceedings during board meetings indicating an overwhelming desire for him to return surrounded this decision.

Seeing as Microsoft was keenly interested in investing further resources into OpenAI—a statement released soon after news emerged regarding the firing of Altman made this clear—the promise of newfound funds with which infrastructure improvements could take place greatly enhanced Board members’ confidence in bringing an individual like Altman back onboard who had played such a major role in creating much-needed trust when initially building relationships between external funding partners over three years ago.

Key Board Members’ Regrets and Employee Revolt

With tensions still simmering, Altman and the board engaged in negotiations as employees staged an internal revolt.

OpenAI pitches merger with Anthropic

Amidst internal turmoil and negotiations, OpenAI opened an avenue to a possible merger with Anthropic. According to internal sources close to the board, the company has begun talks of uniting its innovative artificial general intelligence platform with Anthropic’s wealth of algorithmic experts.

A successful merger could enable OpenAI to make leaps and bounds in achieving its goal of building AGI for commercial purposes such as automating tasks or modeling complex systems—accelerating innovation beyond current paradigms.

However, despite the fact that there may be a lot of room for advancement, there may also be risks involved. For instance, consolidating powerful AI platforms within one conglomerate owned primarily by Altman & Brockman would cause significant power imbalances both within OpenAI and outside of it due to a lack of oversight; additionally, there’s no certainty yet on how leveraging external algorithms will affect data security and privacy provisions at OpenAI or whether founder goals are truly aligned despite rhetoric on the contrary.

A key board member said he regretted ousting Altman

In November of 2023, OpenAI’s board made the shock decision to eject its founding CEO, Sam Altman. Many speculated about his motive and consequences shortly after his abrupt termination from the company.

One key board member apologized for their part in ousting Altman, publicly expressing regret due to the fact that he had done “a great job,” leaving a successful operation behind him.

This action on behalf of an influential internal authority has raised questions about how difficult it is going to be for OpenAI to go forward without its leader at the helm, not just from an operational standpoint but also regarding morale on all levels of the employee hierarchy within.

Employees staged a revolt

Following the November 16 resignation of Sam Altman as CEO, morale within OpenAI was quickly sinking. On November 19th, reports emerged that almost all 800 employees signed an open letter threatening to quit and follow Altman to Microsoft unless the board members who dismissed him reinstated him and resigned.

This employee revolt was a critical development in what would become one of technology’s most tumultuous boardroom shake-ups. Embarrassed by this show of strength from their staff, the key board members behind Altman’s ousting were left with no choice but to negotiate his return.

Moreover, this incident showed how powerful employee solidarity can be against corporate interests; employees speaking out collectively had reversed initial decisions from some of tech’s most influential decision-makers.

Takeaway

The tumultuous timeline of events surrounding Sam Altman’s exit and return to OpenAI has placed the company at a crossroads. With new board members and leadership, there is concern that OpenAI may pursue aggressive tactics in its development of AI models and services for commercial use without full consideration of the potential societal implications.

There are also fears about internal frictions that can hamper innovation if not addressed quickly. However, there is no doubt that with an experienced leader like Altman back at the helm, OpenAI can move forward with a renewed focus on delivering innovative products while taking into account safety concerns about artificial intelligence technology.

Not only so, but with him back in charge, several new opportunities have opened up due to his ability to negotiate profitable deals; these come as cartouches of good news for both consumer applications using AI and research organizations leveraging their business prospects for advancement.

At any rate, open debate on important issues related to AI must be done in order to ensure ethical practices are met throughout every step of this development process in light of the potentially damaging consequences posed by unbridled ambitions driven by profits alone.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you want to know more about the firing and returning saga of Sam Altman to OpenAI, check the answers below.

1. Why did Sam Altman resign from OpenAI’s board of directors in 2019?

In 2019, Sam Altman resigned from OpenAI’s board of directors due to disagreements on potential ethical issues surrounding AGI (artificial general intelligence).

2. Who is Emmet Shear, and what was his role after Sam left OpenAI?

Emmett Shear has been a board member at OpenAI since 2018, and he became chairman when Sam Altman left the organization in February 2019.

3. What did NewsGuard report about the partial resignation of board members?

Newguard reported that more than half of OpenAI’s 18-member board had resigned partially or completely due to differences over research priorities.

4. Did Altman return to open AIG after resigning in February ’19?

Yes! In April 2020, it was announced that Sam Altman returned as CEO and could resume his place on the Board of Directors at OpenAI, where he helped expand the Artificial Intelligence (AI) research program.


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