OpenAI's wild week: CEO ousted, reinstated, board shaken up

Digital, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Media, Social Media, Technology

Staff Writer 27 Nov 2023
2 mins
OpenAI logo

It was an eventful week over at the OpenAI headquarters last week with the sudden removal and reinstatement of CEO Sam Altman.

His replacement, lasting less than 72 hours, was former CEO and co-founder of popular live streaming platform Twitch, Emmett Shear.

Shear took the news well, as he was always questioning the decision to remove Altman, planning on an independent review of the situation to find out what really went on.

Shear hadn’t moved on to a new role since resigning from Twitch in March of this year, making him a solid and seemingly straightforward pick for the position.

But why was Altman removed from the position in the first place?

OpenAI stated in its first release: “Altman’s departure follows a deliberative review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities. The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI”.

That was until two days later, when OpenAI reversed its decision, stating: “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”.

So now the board who initially fired Altman are the ones who are on the chopping block, what exactly is going on at OpenAI?

Maybe the board thought they were making the right decision, but employees voiced their frustrations after more than half of the company came together signing a petition threatening to resign unless Altman was reinstated.

As the internet does, theories are going wild as to what exactly happened this week.

Was it a clever marketing plan?

This is one of the main theories out there, but does the fastest growing tech app really need to boost its name with a bit of controversy?

I don’t think so, and yes Threads beat the record after its launch earlier this year but let’s be honest, who uses Threads anymore (or ever did).

Maybe it was a plan to remove the Board members?

Ilya Sutskever, who was one of the four Board members behind the decision and a co-founder of OpenAI, quickly changed his position on the sacking of the CEO.

Sutskever was sighted on the signature list of employees requesting the reinstatement of Altman, and took to X to voice his apology.

“I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company.” Sutskever said.

While Sutskever is no longer on the board, Adam D’Angelo is the only remaining member of the old team, alongside Bret Taylor who will chair the board and Larry Summers.

The board remains incomplete at the moment, making it compelling to watch to monitor the selection of the remaining members.

And where does Microsoft sit in all this?

Microsoft, who are heavily invested into OpenAI, immediately swooped on Altman, and were about to take hundreds of OpenAI staff members if Altman wasn’t reinstated, but that won’t be the case for now.

Now with a new board and Altman back at the helm, a week of chaos has calmed, at least externally, but hopefully the company can shift its focus back to delivering the world’s leading AI services.