OpenAI’s initial new board counts Larry Summers among its ranks

Meet OpenAI’s new board of directors: Bret Taylor, Larry Summers and Adam D’Angelo. Or, more precisely, the board for now.

Around 1 am Eastern Time on Tuesday, OpenAI announced that, after the company’s previous board of directors abruptly fired Sam Altman as CEO on Friday, an agreement “in principle” had been reached for Altman to return to OpenAI as CEO with a new initial slate of board members. Taylor, the former co-CEO of Salesforce, will chair this board, along with Quora CEO D’Angelo – a holdover from OpenAI’s previous board – and Summers.

“Initial” means that the board is transitional rather than permanent. And, this is an “in principle” test, it is far from concrete. We will have to wait for clarification from OpenAI, which will probably come later in the working day.

If a Verge report The belief, however, is that the final OpenAI board will have nine members — possibly including Altman and a Microsoft exec. Before Tuesday’s deal, Microsoft was reportedly considering whether to push for a seat — which could invite regulatory scrutiny. Obviously, the company felt it was worth the management and management guarantees.

Now, Taylor’s name has been bandied about in reports over the past few days as a potential appointee to a new OpenAI board. And it’s not out of the question that D’Angelo, who is reportedly heavily involved in negotiations to bring Altman back into the OpenAI fold, has the necessary support to keep his seat. But Summers is a bit of a wildcard – at least at first glance.

An economist, Summers served as US secretary of the treasury from 1999 to 2001 and as director of the National Economic Council from 2009 to 2010. Most recently, he directed the White House US National Economic Council for then President Barack Obama, where he played a key role in charting the Obama administration’s response to the Great Recession.

Now, you may ask, what is an economist and political veteran doing on the newly formed OpenAI board? Well — a tech outsider on the startup board isn’t without an introduction, first. Republican member of the House of Representatives Will Hurd held a seat at one point in time, which he gave up for an unsuccessful run for the presidency.

But Summer’s appointment is also strategic, my colleague Ingrid Lunden taught me through text. With OpenAI under increasing regulatory scrutiny, Summers brings the connections OpenAI needs – and wants – to governments, businesses and academia.

Ilya Sutskever, the chief scientist at OpenAI, is one of the many losers here. Reportedly among the board contingent pushing for Altman’s ouster, he appears to have been forced to relinquish significant influence at the company he helped found with Altman nearly eight years ago. If his recent post on X (formerly Twitter) is anything to go by, he’s very sorry. Anyone.

Tech entrepreneur Tasha McCauley and Helen Toner, director of Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technologies, were also absent. If last night’s reporting is anything to go by, Altman will be more than happy to fire the latter; Altman is said to have tried to remove Toner from the board earlier this year over a paper he co-authored that shed a critical light on OpenAI’s safety practices.

As for Brockman, who resigned as president of OpenAI on Friday in protest of the board’s decision to replace Altman, it is unclear what his fate will be. The old board fired Brockman, and OpenAI’s announcement Tuesday made no mention of his return. Stay tuned for more on that front; we put our ears to the ground.

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