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Microsoft joins OpenAI board as Sam Altman returns as CEO

Richard Lai

Following Sam Altman’s rollercoaster of a return as OpenAI’s CEO, the company announced — on the eve of ChatGPT’s first anniversary — that it will now include Microsoft as a non-voting observer on its board. The question remains as to why the firm’s largest investor wasn’t on its board in the first place, but this seems to be somewhat addressed for now, at least. Altman is joined by co-founder Greg Brockman who resumes his role as President, whereas Mira Murati, who very briefly served as interim CEO throughout the drama, will return to her role as CTO.

The announcement also confirms a new board consisting of former Salesforce CEO Bret Taylor (chair), former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, and original member Adam D’Angelo, who is also Quora’s co-founder and CEO. It was earlier rumored that Altman’s exit was partly influenced by D’Angelo’s seeming conflict of interest, as OpenAI was developing a potential competitor to Quora’s Poe service — the latter offers OpenAI’s ChatGPT and GPT-4, along with several other text-generating AI models.

I recognize that during this process some questions were raised about Adam’s potential conflict of interest running Quora and Poe while being on the OpenAI Board. For the record, I want to state that Adam has always been very clear with me and the Board about the potential…

— Sam Altman (@sama) November 30, 2023

D’Angelo’s presence on OpenAI’s new board came as a surprise, and Altman took to X to address the elephant in the room. “Quora is a large customer of OpenAI and we found it helpful to have customer representation on our Board.” The exec added that D’Angelo “has always been very clear… about the potential conflict and doing whatever he needed to do,” including offering to leave the board, if necessary. As to why the original board wanted Altman out, he said “it is clear that there were real misunderstandings between me and members of the board.”

OpenAI co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever was a former board member who allegedly led the ouster of Altman. The exec later openly admitted that he “deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions” (with Elon Musk begging for attention in his thread), and he had since voiced his support for Altman’s return as CEO. In his open message, Altman says “I harbor zero ill will towards him,” and that his team is figuring out a way to let Sutskever continue his work at OpenAI.

In the same official announcement, OpenAI’s new Chair, Taylor, assured that the company will “enhance the governance structure,” and put together “an independent committee of the Board to oversee a review of the recent events,” for the sake of the organization’s stability.

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