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Come back: Sam Altman

Photo: Lamkey Rod / CNP / ABACAPRESS / IMAGO

A few days after his surprise dismissal, Sam Altman (38) will once again become head of ChatGPT developer OpenAI. In addition, the board of directors will be renewed, as OpenAI announced.

It's the next twist in the saga that has kept the tech world in suspense for days. Co-founder Altman had only been forced out of the company completely unexpectedly on Friday ; at the same time, the co-founder and chairman Greg Brockman (35) was also disempowered. An attempt to reinstall the two sacked people failed on Sunday due to resistance from the committee. The two had then decided on Sunday to go to OpenAI investor Microsoft. But the company had not come to rest.

Internally, around 700 of OpenAI's 770 employees threatened to follow Altman – which would have effectively meant the end of the company. At the same time, the company's smaller investors exerted pressure and threatened to sue. Even Microsoft boss Satya Nadella (56) was open to a return.

Now the time has come. Altman said of online platform X, "I'm excited to return to OpenAI." And Brockman wrote there that they would now be stronger and more united than ever before; he will start programming again that night.

The Board of Directors will also be reconstituted. Initially, it will consist of four people. Quora CEO Adam D'Angelo (39) is the only one of the old members to keep his post. Bret Taylor (43) is to act as chairman in the future; The former Meta CTO was also chairman of the short message service and co-CEO of Salesforce before the takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk (52). In addition, the experienced star economist and politician Larry Summers (68) will join the board.

Microsoft CEO Nadella welcomed the transformation: "We believe this is the first step on a path to more stable, better informed and effective corporate governance."

Dispute over the direction of OpenAI

The background to the dismissal of the two leading figures was a dispute over the direction of OpenAI. Some executives, such as chief scientist and co-founder Ilya Sutskever (36) – previously also a member of the board of directors – had been of the opinion that Altman wanted to bring the artificial intelligence software to market too quickly and with too commercial an approach. This opinion was also expressed by the majority of the three other independent members of the Board of Directors. Sutskever had already regretted his role in Altman's downfall on Sunday and co-signed the call for his return.

OpenAI was founded in 2015 as a non-profit organization with the mission to develop artificial intelligence in the interest of all. However, when it became clear that the necessary billions of dollars in investments could not be found with donations, a profit-oriented company was formed with Altman at the helm. In 2019, he brought Microsoft, among others, on board as an investor, thus securing OpenAI's access to the necessary computing power. However, the conflict between the two approaches grew deeper and deeper.

The chatbot ChatGPT can formulate sentences at the linguistic level of a human. Its release about a year ago sparked an AI hype. OpenAI thus became a pioneer in the technology. Microsoft entered into a multibillion-dollar pact with the company to bring its technology into the company's products. Other tech heavyweights such as Google, Amazon and the Facebook group Meta presented competing software.