Sam Altman has returned as CEO of OpenAI alongside former president Greg Brockman and a host of new directors in the latest twist in the tech firm's dramatic boardroom saga.
Altman was abruptly sacked by OpenAI on Friday after he was accused of being “not consistently candid in his communications with the board", but staff at the ChatGPT maker had urged for his reinstatement and called on the board that ousted him to be replaced.
OpenAI appears to have heeded those calls, after introducing a new board with Altman back at the helm alongside new members including ex-US treasury secretary Larry Summers and former Salesforce CEO Bret Taylor.
The initial members of the new board have reportedly been tasked with expanding it to up to nine people, with Microsoft pushing to have a seat to ensure there are no further boardroom bust-ups in the AI firm to which it has committed to more than $10 billion in funding.
In a statement 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."
After his sacking, Altman arrived at OpenAI's San Francisco headquarters on Sunday for crunch talks with senior company execs in a bid to be reinstated as chief executive. The meeting is reported to have been mediated by Satya Nadella, CEO of lead investor Microsoft, with talk of Altman's proposed reinstatement said to have been conditional on the removal of existing board members who voted to fire him.
Those talks appear to have initially fallen through as Nadella said on Monday that Altman would instead be hired at Microsoft and be replaced at OpenAI by the former boss of streaming service Twitch, Emmett Shear.
But since then, pressure to bring Altman back has grown as hundreds of staff signed a letter calling for the board to be removed and threatened to quit to join Mr Altman in his new team at Microsoft unless he is allowed to return to the company.
The letter claimed the board’s decision to remove Mr Altman and co-founder Brockman had jeopardised the company’s work and accused the board of not having the competence to oversee the company.
Altman said in a statement: "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.
When I decided to join [Microsoft] on Sun evening, it was clear that was the best path for me and the team. with the new board and w Satya’s Support, I’m looking forward to returning to OpenAI, and building on our strong partnership with [Microsoft]."
Nadella said: "We are encouraged by the changes to the OpenAI board. We believe this is a first essential step on a path to more stable, well-informed, and effective governance."
OpenAI has yet to explain why Altman was initially fired on Friday amid reports of internal divisions over the company’s AI safety policies.
Shear denied that Altman was fired over safety concerns but commissioned an investigation into the events that led up to his departure.