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The CEO of Salesforce Pulled Out All the Stops to Poach OpenAI's Talent — But Now Sam Altman Is Back


Nov 24, 2023

Just days after his contentious removal as CEO of OpenAI, Sam Altman has agreed to return to and lead the company, and a new initial board is in place, OpenAI said in a post on X.

The new initial board will include Bret Taylor (chair), a former co-CEO of Salesforce; former treasury secretary Larry Summers; and Quora CEO Adam D'Angelo, an existing director. Additional details are to come, the company noted.

Greg Brockman, former Stripe chief technology officer and co-founder of OpenAI, who left the company in solidarity with Altman, will also return, per Brockman's post on X.

The artificial intelligence industry was rocked last week when OpenAI, the company behind the highly successful ChatGPT, experienced a significant boardroom shakeup.

CEO Sam Altman was unexpectedly removed by OpenAI's board of directors on November 17, and the decision has sparked a backlash among the company's employees, with many threatening to resign — and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff swooping in with a competitive offer that may be hard for some of them to refuse, per TheStreet.

Greg Brockman, former Stripe Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of OpenAI wasted no time in expressing his solidarity with Altman. Brockman has already resigned from OpenAI, further intensifying the unrest within the company. Additionally, over 700 OpenAI employees have signed a letter demanding the resignation of the entire board, expressing their dissatisfaction with their current leadership.

Not willing to let this opportunity pass, competing technology giants have begun to make moves to attract disillusioned OpenAI workers. Microsoft, an investor in OpenAI and a user of ChatGPT in its Bing search engine, signed a contract with Altman to work on new AI projects. The company also managed to secure Brockman's services over the weekend.

Salesforce's CEO Marc Benioff has also entered the scene, making an enticing offer to disgruntled OpenAI employees. Benioff, known for his success in building Salesforce into a global business software powerhouse, promised to match the salary of any OpenAI researcher — who can receive a base salary of $300,000 — who decides to leave.

OpenAI sought a new valuation of up to $90 billion in the sale of existing shares in September, roughly tripling an earlier valuation this year, The Wall Street Journal reported. Although that sale is in danger of falling through amid the chaos, per The Information, OpenAI employees still hold significant equity options — potentially worth millions, for some — that might discourage them from jumping ship to work for a competitor.

But Benioff's offer addresses that too: The CEO is willing to compensate researchers for any unvested OpenAI options they may give up by joining Salesforce.

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