In a surprising twist, Sam Altman has agreed to return as OpenAI’s CEO just two days after his abrupt ousting, thanks to an unexpected Thanksgiving meeting with Adam D’Angelo, an OpenAI board member who played a key role in his removal.
Their lengthy discussion, described by Altman as “really nice,” has drawn attention to D’Angelo’s unique position in the ongoing corporate drama gripping Silicon Valley. It also underscores the importance of their relationship in restoring stability to the renowned AI startup. As part of Altman’s return, OpenAI’s board will undergo a major overhaul, with one exception—Adam D’Angelo will remain a director.
D’Angelo’s continued presence on the board may come as a surprise given his earlier role in Altman’s dismissal, citing communication issues. During the turmoil, investor Vinod Khosla expressed his belief that D’Angelo stood firm in his decision despite the controversy. However, when nearly all OpenAI staff threatened to resign, D’Angelo played a pivotal role in negotiations for Altman’s return.
D’Angelo’s involvement has brought fresh scrutiny to the longtime Silicon Valley insider, known for co-founding Quora and his early role at Facebook. While Altman’s ousting shocked the industry, it wasn’t D’Angelo’s first experience removing a company leader, as he also pushed out Quora co-founder Charlie Cheever in 2012.
D’Angelo’s presence on the board has raised eyebrows due to Quora’s increasing competition with OpenAI’s ChatGPT. The situation is seen as unusual, with corporate social responsibility expert Kellie McElhaney noting potential conflicts of interest in the nonprofit board.
In response, a Quora spokesperson emphasized that Poe, Quora’s platform, is “neutral” and provides access to AI models from various developers, including OpenAI.
OpenAI did not respond to requests for comment, but an insider familiar with the situation suggested that OpenAI’s board values the perspective of a customer like Quora among its directors.
Since Altman’s ousting, D’Angelo has maintained a low profile, with rumors about his involvement and motivations circulating.
In 2012, D’Angelo had a similar falling out with Quora co-founder Charlie Cheever, resulting in Cheever’s departure.
Despite raising $300 million from Silicon Valley investors, Quora has yet to go public or be acquired since its founding nearly 15 years ago.
Six years ago, D’Angelo expressed optimism about AI’s potential but also voiced concerns about AI safety, emphasizing the need to adapt to a changing landscape.