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Sam Altman has been reinstated as OpenAI CEO. Elon Musk says ‘the public should be informed’ why he was fired in the first place

Sam Altman the day before being ousted as OpenAI CEO.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
It’s been a tumultuous week for OpenAI and anyone who follows the field of artificial intelligence. After the OpenAI board fired CEO Sam Altman on Friday, investors who’d been taken off guard by the move raced to reinstate him. Late Tuesday, OpenAI on X: “We have reached an agreement in principle for Sam Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO.”
But questions remain about why the board fired him in the first place. The board on Friday.

Among those wanting to know is Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who on X: “Given the risk and power of advanced AI, the public should be informed of why the board felt they had to take such drastic action.”

When an X user said it felt as if there were a “bombshell variable” the public was unaware of behind Altman’s firing, Musk , “Exactly.”

And AI expert Gary Marcus worried that it did not bode well that the OpenAI board—presumably in control of the capped-profit company and with an eye on the nonprofit mission—was apparently overpowered as investors raced to get Altman back into his role.

OpenAI Chief Operating Officer Brad Lightcap told Bloomberg, “we have had multiple conversations with the board to try to better understand the reasons and process behind their decision,” which took him and others at the company by surprise. Eric Newcomer, who hosts a technology podcast, that Altman should not be given too much power.
“The public should not want, nor should the OpenAI board give Altman unbridled power to run OpenAI as he pleases,” he wrote. “Altman has a history of fractious corporate breakups…These board members are not the first people to question Altman’s integrity. They’ve just done so in public.”  

He mentioned among others the power struggle with Musk, who was an OpenAI cofounder in 2015 and helped attract key talent, but left a few years later on a sour note. Musk later the onetime nonprofit that he meant to serve as a counterweight to Google becoming a “closed source, maximum-profit company effectively controlled by Microsoft. Not what I intended at all.” 

Musk was key to recruiting Ilya Sutskever, the chief scientist at the center of OpenAI’s leadership shakeup. Sutskever is on the current board and is the one who informed Altman of his dismissal, according to Greg Brockman, who quit as president in protest of Altman’s firing but will .

OpenAI also announced a revamped board, with new members including former Treasury secretary Larry Summers and Bret Taylor, the former co-CEO of Salesforce. Adam D’Angelo, a former  executive, will remain on the board.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was reportedly  to fire Altman but made clear Altman and colleagues would have a home at Microsoft if not OpenAI. The software giant has committed at least $13 billion to OpenAI since 2019 but only delivered some of that. It’s questionable whether OpenAI could continue operating without the continual cash infusions and computing power provided by Microsoft, which means Microsoft wields considerable power.

Updated on Wednesday, Nov. 22.

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