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HomeTechSam Altman's officially back at OpenAI -- and the board gains a...

Sam Altman’s officially back at OpenAI — and the board gains a Microsoft observer

Sam Altman is officially back as OpenAI’s CEO after a tumultuous week and change. And OpenAI officially has a new board of directors, replacing most of the board that attempted to oust Altman in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

In a letter circulated internally at OpenAI and subsequently published to the OpenAI blog, Altman announced that Mira Murati, who was briefly appointed interim CEO by the previous board, will return to her role as CTO, and confirmed that the initial new board will consist of Bret Taylor, the former co-CEO of Salesforce; Quora CEO D’Angelo, who served on the previous board; and economist and political veteran Larry Summers.

Microsoft will also gain representation on the board in the form of a non-voting observer. (Microsoft is a major investor in OpenAI, with a 49% stake in the for-profit OpenAI entity that a nonprofit to which the board belongs controls.) It wasn’t immediately clear who this observer might be — only that they won’t have an official vote in board business.

“I’ve never been more excited about the future,” Altman wrote. “I’m extremely grateful for everyone’s hard work in an unclear and unprecedented situation, and I believe our resilience and spirit set us apart in the industry.”

In the letter, Altman lays out OpenAI’s priorities going forward, chiefly advancing OpenAI’s research plan and “further investing” in its AI safety efforts. The initial board’s members will also work to build out a board of “diverse perspectives,” Altman promises, making unspecified “improvements” to OpenAI’s governance structure and overseeing an independent review of recent events.

“It’s important that people get to experience the benefits and promise of AI, and have the opportunity to shape it,” Altman said. “We continue to believe that great products are the best way to do this. I’ll work with [OpenAI leadership] to ensure our unwavering commitment to users, customers, partners and governments around the world is clear.”

The turbulent recent saga at OpenAI began when the old board — Altman, OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI president Greg Brockman, tech entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, D’Angelo and Helen Toner, director at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technologies — abruptly canned Altman without notifying just about anyone, including the bulk of OpenAI’s 770-person workforce. The move infuriated Microsoft and OpenAI’s other investors, put the company’s rumored stock sale at risk and led to the vast majority of OpenAI employees, including Sutskever, pledging to quit unless Altman was swiftly reinstated.

At issue, reportedly, were disputes between the previous board and Altman over OpenAI’s direction. Publicly, that board accused Altman of “not [being] consistently candid” with board members. Privately, Altman was said to have been critical of Toner over a paper she co-authored that cast OpenAI’s approach to safety in a critical light and frustrated Sutskever by rushing the launch of AI-powered features at OpenAI’s first developer conference, DevDay.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Altman specifically addressed reporting that D’Angelo had a conflict of interest that might’ve spurred Altman’s removal, saying that D’Angelo has “always been very clear … about the potential conflict” and “[done] whatever he needed to do … to avoid conflicted decision-making.” (Quora’s Poe chatbot-aggregating service is perceived by some as competing with OpenAI’s products.)

“We expect that if OpenAI is as successful as we hope, it will touch many parts of the economy and have complex relationships with many other entities in the world, resulting in various potential conflicts of interest,” Altman continued in the post. “The way we plan to deal with this is with full disclosure and leaving decisions about how to manage situations like these up to the board.”

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