Sam Altman will return to OpenAI as chief executive just days after being removed from the role by the firm’s board, the company has confirmed.
The ChatGPT-maker said it had reached an “agreement in principle” for Mr Altman to return to the company and a new board would be formed to work alongside him.
Mr Altman’s reinstatement comes after nearly all of OpenAI’s more than 700 staff signed a letter demanding his return and the removal of the board which ousted him, with staff threatening to leave the company to join Mr Altman when he appeared to be on the verge of joining a new AI team at Microsoft following his dismissal.
His return to OpenAI completes a chaotic few days in Silicon Valley where, once confirmed, Mr Altman will become OpenAI’s fourth chief executive in five days.
In a statement posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, OpenAI said: “We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial board of Bret Taylor (Chair), Larry Summers, and Adam D’Angelo.
“We are collaborating to figure out the details. Thank you so much for your patience through this.”
In his own message, posted to X, Mr Altman said: “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.”
He added that he was “looking forward” to returning to the AI firm and “building on our strong partnership” with Microsoft – the company’s largest investor.
Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella said the tech giant was “encouraged by the changes” to OpenAI’s board.
“We believe this is a first essential step on a path to more stable, well-informed, and effective governance,” he said in a post to X.
OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman, who left the company after Mr Altman was dismissed, confirmed he was also returning.
Mr Altman’s return concludes a chaotic few days, which began on Friday when OpenAI announced his shock departure after it said a review found he was “not consistently candid in his communications” with the board, but with no further details ever confirmed.
In the immediate wake of Mr Altman’s departure, chief technology officer Mira Murati was named as interim chief executive.
But Mr Altman’s departure sparked a staff backlash, and the OpenAI co-founder was reported to be back in discussions with the firm’s board over the weekend about a swift return, but these talks ended without a deal being reached.
Then on Monday, Microsoft announced it planned to hire Mr Altman and Mr Brockman to lead a new advanced AI research team inside Microsoft, while OpenAI announced former Twitch boss Emmett Shear was set to come in as its second interim chief executive in two days.
As staff discontent continued to appear on social media, one OpenAI board member, Ilya Sutskever, apologised on X and signed the staff letter calling for the decision to remove Mr Altman to be reversed and the board to be replaced.
By Tuesday evening, it was reported that Mr Altman was again back in talks with OpenAI about a return, before the move was confirmed on Wednesday morning alongside a restructured board with only Mr D’Angelo of the four board members who chose to originally remove Mr Altman confirmed to be returning.