Sam Altman gets the boot from OpenAI’s board: a short recap

November 21, 2023
Image by frimufilms on Freepik

(UPDATE) We added that Sam Altman returned to his post with a new board.

Love him or hate him, Sam Altman is tech’s "it girl" (technically, it guy). So when OpenAI’s board of directors abruptly announced his ouster last week, it left the tech world shocked and confused.

  • What happened? The board said that Altman was “not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.”

3 CEOs in 3 days? Following the announcement, CTO Mira Murati was announced as interim CEO. But…she was replaced by Ex-Twitch head Emmett Shear after she publicly supported Altman. 

⚔️ Where loyalties lie

The sudden announcement naturally caused unrest—even among the company’s executives. OpenAI president Greg Brockman (who was also removed by the board as chairman) quit shortly after the news broke out. Three senior OpenAI researchers followed suit as well. 

  • Murati allegedly only heard about the decision on short notice.
  • And employees (even investors) were blindsided. The Information reported that dozens of employees filed their resignations when

😢 Is it too late to come back?

The Verge reported that the board of directors was considering taking Altman back, but they later retracted their offer. 

  • In an article, The Wall Street Journal reported that Altman said he would consider returning if the whole board was replaced. 
  • The deal fell through. 

🔎 The theories

But OpenAI was doing great, right? They even just had their Demo Day, where they announced new commercial features for premium subscribers. 

  • Well, there are currently rumors going around that Altman steered the company’s business too far and too fast for the board’s liking. 

Did you know? OpenAI started as a non-profit, and the board members (including Altman) don’t have any shares in the company. 

  • That said, unlike most corporate boards, the board isn’t exactly looking to prioritize maximizing shareholder value, but focusing on creating safe and ethical AI practices. Some say that could be a reason for the disconnect.

🫥 The consequences

Altman is the public face of OpenAI, whose ChatGPT chatbot jumpstarted the generative AI craze last year. 

  • With him officially out of the picture, it could affect investors and initiate a talent gap that could impact their upcoming $86B share sale

🤔 Microsoft to the rescue?

Altman’s been hired by Microsoft, where he will be the CEO of a new research group along with Greg Brockman and some other colleagues.

  • Extra Scoop: Microsoft is a solid backer of OpenAI, pouring $13B in funds into the company while Altman was still CEO.

Shear has also promised to launch an investigation into Altman’s firing.

Oh, and we’ve heard that over 600 out of 700 OpenAI employees have signed a letter telling the board to resign.

  • Mira Murati and Ilya Sutskever (yes, the Ilya from the board who removed Sam and now deeply regrets it) are among the signatories.


As of November 22, Altman is back at OpenAI the same week he was fired. New board members were also announced.

You can see the company's statement for yourself in this X post.

  • Hundreds of OpenAI employees (including Sutskever) signed a letter demanding the remaining board members resign. If they didn't? They would all leave.
  • OpenAI's investors, Microsoft, Tiger Global, Thrive Capital, and Seqouia Capital, also worked together to reverse the board's decision.

Resolution. Bret Taylor, Larry Summers, and Adam D'Angelo are joining the company as the new initial board members.

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