Sam Altman is officially back as CEO of OpenAI after a tumultuous week and change. And OpenAI officially has a new board of directors, replacing most of the board that tried to oust Altman in the days before Thanksgiving.
In a letter circulated within OpenAI and subsequently PUBLISHED on 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 appointee Larry Summers.
Microsoft will also get 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 controlled by a nonprofit to which the board belongs.) It’s not immediately clear who this observer is — but they don’t have official vote on board business.
“I’ve never been more excited about the future,” Altman wrote. “I am very grateful for everyone’s hard work in an uncertain and unprecedented situation, and I believe that our tenacity and spirit set us apart in the industry.”
In the letter, Altman laid out OpenAI’s priorities going forward, particularly the development of OpenAI’s research plan and “further investment” in AI safety efforts. The initial board members will also work to create a board of “diverse perspectives,” Altman promised, making unspecified “improvements” to OpenAI’s governance structure and overseeing the an independent review of recent events.
“It’s important that people experience the benefits and promise of AI, and have the opportunity to shape it,” Altman said. “We continue to believe that good products are the best way to do this. I will work with (OpenAI’s leadership) to ensure that our unwavering commitment is clear to users, customers, partners and governments around the world. .
OpenAI’s tumultuous recent saga 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 of Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technologies – suddenly canned Altman. without notifying anyone, including most of OpenAI’s 770-person workforce. The move angered Microsoft and OpenAI’s other investors, put the rumored sale of the company’s stock at risk and led to many OpenAI employees, including Sutskever, vowing to quit unless Altman was quickly reinstated.
At issue, reportedly, were disputes between the previous board and Altman over the direction of OpenAI. Publicly, the board accused Altman of being “not (un)consistently forthright” with board members. In private, Altman it is said that Toner criticized a paper he co-authored that casts OpenAI’s approach to safety in a critical light and disappointed Sutskever by rushing to launch AI-powered features at OpenAI’s first developer conference, DevDay.
In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Altman specifically addressed reports that D’Angelo had a conflict of interest that may have prompted Altman’s firing, saying that D’Angelo has “always been very clear … about the potential conflict” and “(did) whatever he had to do … to avoid conflicting decision-making.” (Quora’s Poe chatbot-aggregating service is viewed by some as competing with many OpenAI 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 full disclosure and leave the decisions on how to handle situations like this up to the board.”