The dramatic crisis surrounding CEO Sam Altman’s ousting from OpenAI reaches a resolution as the CEO returns to his former position.
Altman’s return signifies a notable change, presenting a new board structure under Bret Taylor’s leadership, accompanied by Larry Summers and Adam D’Angelo as directors.
The entrepreneur’s dismissal itself lacked transparency, citing his alleged lack of transparency and OpenAI’s mission defense. Analysts perceive this move favorably for Altman and Microsoft, the latter investing billions in OpenAI.
Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, acclaimed these changes as a crucial step towards stable governance. However, uncertainty looms over prior board members’ roles and board appointments, especially Microsoft’s significant stake.
OpenAI, distinct with a nonprofit oversight prioritizing AI safety, established a profit-capped unit in 2019 for funding and staff incentives.
The successful American investor’s dramatic return draws parallels to key industry figures like Steve Jobs of Apple, Michael Dell at Dell Inc., Robert Iger from Disney, Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Jack Dorsey of Twitter, and Sergio Ermotti at UBS, all of whom stepped down from their CEO positions only to later reclaim them.
Steve Jobs departed Apple in 1985 and returned in 1997, while Michael Dell transitioned from CEO to chairman in 2004 and resumed as CEO in 2007. Robert Iger left Disney in 2020 but was called back in 2022. Schultz served as Starbucks’ CEO thrice, and Dorsey led Twitter on two separate occasions, returning in 2015. Sergio Ermotti initially led UBS until 2020 and retook the CEO role in 2023 amid challenges linked to UBS’s acquisition of Credit Suisse.
Altman’s strategies, aided partly by Microsoft, led to a board reconfiguration amid staff upheaval, which culminated in his return. This move prevented a potential collapse by reinforcing the team’s unity and overcoming Thanksgiving’s looming deadline.
Altman’s return may have been made possible primarily due to Microsoft’s support. After he had been sacked, CEO Nadella said that Altman had the opportunity to lead a fresh research team, collaborating with Brockman and several colleagues who were leaving OpenAI. The vast majority of OpenAI’s 800 staff members had also indicated their intention to accompany Altman to Microsoft.
The event, including Altman’s ousting, Brockman’s resignation, Shear’s interim CEO role, and widespread staff discontent, shaped an attractive tech drama on a larger scale.
Altman has returned now and it might seem favorable momentarily, yet it exposes underlying intra-managerial concerns within tech giants.