Sam Altman Returns as OpenAI CEO Amid Board Overhaul: New Leadership Mixes Business Acumen with Tech Expertise

Microsoft Representation and Business-Oriented Directors Signal a Shift in OpenAI’s Governance

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After a period of uncertainty and upheaval, Sam Altman has reclaimed the position of CEO at OpenAI, accompanied by a reshaped board featuring three new members. Notably, the board is not yet complete, with ongoing negotiations to include representation from major investors such as Microsoft, which has invested significantly in OpenAI.

The revamped board reflects a departure from the previous composition, which included academics and researchers. The new directors bring extensive backgrounds in business and technology, aligning with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s assertion that OpenAI’s governance needed a change.

New Board Members:

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1. Bret Taylor (Board Chair):
– Former co-CEO of Salesforce and Twitter’s final board chair.
– Currently a board member at Shopify.
– Co-founder of Quip, a collaboration platform acquired by Salesforce.
– Recently launched an artificial intelligence venture.

2. Larry Summers:
– Former Treasury Secretary during the Clinton administration.
– Economist with experience leading Harvard University and the Obama administration’s National Economic Council.
– Holds board positions at Block and Skillsoft.

3. Adam D’Angelo:
– The only member from the previous board, joined in 2018.
– CEO of Quora and former executive at Meta (formerly Facebook).
– Played a significant role in negotiating Altman’s return.

Notable Absences from the Previous Board:

1. Helen Toner:
– Researcher and director at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology.
– Criticized OpenAI’s direction in an October paper.
– Involved in pushing Altman out.

2. Tasha McCauley:
– Adjunct senior management scientist at Rand Corporation.
– Former CEO of GeoSim Systems.
– Did not comment publicly since Altman’s removal.

3. Ilya Sutskever:
– Co-founder and Chief Scientist at OpenAI.
– Initially aligned with the board but later repudiated support.
– Removed from the board despite ongoing executive role.

The board’s reshuffling comes as Microsoft, Sequoia Capital, Thrive Capital, and Tiger Global, major investors without representation on the board, pushed for Altman’s reinstatement. The move signifies a shift towards experienced technology and business executives, potentially transforming OpenAI into a more conventional Silicon Valley startup, although it remains a “capped-profit” entity owned by a nonprofit.

The changes are seen as an essential step towards stabilizing OpenAI’s governance, addressing recent challenges, and navigating potential regulatory scrutiny. The ongoing negotiations for additional board members suggest further developments in OpenAI’s leadership structure.