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Sam Altman is back as CEO of OpenAI with a new board that includes Microsoft. Here's everything we know about the chaotic coup.

Sam Altman, former CEO of OpenAI, is out of the company he cofounded.
Sam Altman got pushed out of OpenAI.Toby Melville/Getty Images
  • OpenAI CEO Sam Altman was suddenly ousted by the company's board earlier in November.

  • Within a week, he was back and a new board that included lead investor Microsoft was announced.

  • The tech world is still wondering what led to the shock firing.

Sam Altman is back in control of OpenAI and the CEO has a brand new board.

The tech boss was fired in a shock board decision earlier this month, kickstarting a chaotic week for the company.

The move initially shocked the tech community and OpenAI investors, including Microsoft. Reports quickly started circulating that the board was wavering on its controversial decision and actively trying to get Altman back.

Three days later, it all appeared to have fallen apart. Former Twitch CEO and cofounder, Emmett Shear, was named interim CEO of the company, and Altman had joined Microsoft.

But the chaos was far from over.

Most employees who returned to work after the weekend were less than impressed with the new company leadership.

Staffers staged a revolt in the form of an open letter demanding the board's resignation and the reinstatement of their former chief. By the end of the day, nearly all employees at the company had added their names.

Negotiations between OpenAI and Altman were restarted and last week the company announced he was set to return as CEO. Altman's return also came with a new board that included lead investor Microsoft.

Here's a timeline of everything we know so far:

Altman was ousted from OpenAI in a shock board decision

Altman was immediately ousted from OpenAI in a dramatic board decision on Friday. The nonprofit board of the company announced it no longer had "confidence in his ability to continue leading."

A timeline provided by fellow OpenAI cofounder Greg Brockman showed that Altman received a text from board member Ilya Sutskever asking to talk at midday Friday.

When Altman joined the meeting, the whole board, excluding Brockman, was on the call and he was told by Sutskever he was being fired, per Brockman's post.

OpenAI staffers resigned

Brockman, the former OpenAI president and cofounder, quit his role at the company shortly after the news broke. He said he was told that he was being removed from the board and that Altman had been fired at about the same time OpenAI published a blog post about the incident.

Brockman said he was originally told he was "vital to the company and would retain his role," but decided to part ways with the company shortly after.

The tech community was shocked by the decision, and at least three other OpenAI researchers followed the former president in giving up their roles.

The OpenAI board was optimistic about getting Altman back

Investors, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, were reportedly blindsided by the decision to remove Altman.

Several investors began pushing the board members to reverse their sudden leadership decision, Bloomberg reported.

In an internal memo cited by The Information, OpenAI's chief strategy officer, Jason Kwon, wrote to staff late Saturday night, saying the company remained optimistic that it could bring back Altman and other senior employees who had left.

Microsoft chief Nadella reportedly led the high-stakes talks on Altman's return over the weekend.

On Sunday, the former OpenAI chief returned to the company's HQ. He posted a picture of himself wearing a guest badge captioned, "First and last time I ever wear one of these."

Discussions fell apart and a new CEO was announced

The Information reported that on Sunday night, Sutskever told OpenAI staffers that Altman would not return, prompting several more employees to quit.

Discussions to bring Altman back had reportedly fallen apart, per The Verge. The board then named former Twitch CEO and cofounder Emmett Shear as interim CEO. Shear took over the role from OpenAI's former CTO Mira Murati, who had publicly supported Altman.

Altman and Brockman joined Microsoft

In a dramatic twist, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella scooped up Altman and Brockman to lead "a new advanced AI research team" at Microsoft.

In a post on X, Brockman said the new Microsoft team would comprise him, Altman, Aleksander Madry, Szymon Sidor, and Jakub Pachocki. He said the team planned to "build something new" and "incredible."

Nadella announced on Monday the company remained "committed to our partnership with OpenAI" and had "confidence in our product roadmap."

A key board member said he regretted ousting Altman

OpenAI cofounder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever said on Monday he deeply regretted his involvement in firing Altman.

Many had theorized that Sutskever had a major role in the decision, with reports highlighting the differing priorities between Altman and the nonprofit board.

"I deeply regret my participation in the board's actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI," Sutskever said in an X post Monday. "I love everything we've built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company."

The chief scientist also added his name to an open letter calling for the board, which he sits on, to resign.

Employees staged a revolt

Most employees returning to work on Monday were unhappy with the chaos the OpenAI board had kickstarted.

Former CTO Mira Murati was installed as interim CEO, following Altman's departure. CEO Emmett Shear, who cofounded Twitch, then took over from her. This meant the company had three CEOs in as many days.

The majority of OpenAI staffers just wanted Altman back.

By the end of the day, nearly the entire OpenAI staff had threatened to quit and join Altman at Microsoft. They signed a letter calling the board to resign, accusing members of undermining the company.

Altman's return rumoured to still be on the cards

Despite publically joining Microsoft that morning, by Monday evening, Altman was reportedly still considering returning to his old post at the AI lab.

The Verge reported that Altman and Brockman were considering going back to OpenAI if the board members who ousted Altman stepped down.

Multiple sources told the outlet that Altman, along with Brockman and OpenAI's investors, were trying to find a plan for board members to exit the company.

Altman and Brockman set to return to OpenAI

On Tuesday night Pacific Standard Time, OpenAI confirmed that Altman was set to return as CEO.

The ChatGPT said in a post on X they "reached an agreement in principle" for Altman's return.

Shortly after OpenAI broke the news, Altman reflected on his decision to join Microsoft, saying he thought "it was clear that was the best path for me and the team."

He continued: "With the new board and w satya's support, i'm looking forward to returning to openai, and building on our strong partnership with msft."

Nadella also commented on the move, adding Microsoft was "encouraged by the changes to the OpenAI board."

OpenAI also announced a "new initial board" consisting of Bret Taylor, Larry Summers, and Adam D'Angelo. Taylor, a former Salesforce executive, will serve as board chair.

Microsoft snags a board seat

Microsoft announced on Wednesday that the company was getting a non-voting board seat.

There had been speculation that Satya Nadella would seek more control over OpenAI following the board's failed coup.

The CEO was reportedly frustrated by the board's lack of communication during the firing and re-hiring of Altman, later telling journalist Kara Swisher he did not plan to be surprised by the company again.

In a message to employees posted on the company's website, re-instated CEO Altman said: "We clearly made the right choice to partner with Microsoft and I'm excited that our new board will include them as a non-voting observer."

One board member speaks out

Former OpenAI board member Helen Toner announced her resignation from the company on Wednesday.

In a post on X, Toner sought to quell rumors the board was attempting to slow some of OpenAI's work.

She said: "To be clear: our decision was about the board's ability to effectively supervise the company, which was our role and responsibility. Though there has been speculation, we were not motivated by a desire to slow down OpenAI's work."

Several reports had pointed to a mysterious new OpenAI model known as Q* as a potential trigger for the chaos. The model is said to have sparked concern at the startup.

Read the original article on Business Insider