Microsoft has non-voting OpenAI board seat, Sam Altman back as CEO

Microsoft has non-voting OpenAI board seat, Sam Altman back as CEO

Microsoft will gain a non-voting observer seat on OpenAI’s revamped board of directors after a bizarre series of events that included the surprise firing and re-hiring of Sam Altman as the firm’s CEO.

The ChatGPT maker confirmed Microsoft’s involvement as part of a formal announcement Wednesday that Altman has returned as CEO.

Fellow co-founder and ex-board chair Greg Brockman will serve as the company’s president.

In a message to staffers announcing the governance changes, Altman gave a shout-out to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and other executives for being “incredible partners” during the recent turmoil.

“They’ve had our backs and were ready to welcome all of us if we couldn’t achieve our primary goal,” Altman said. “We clearly made the right choice to partner with Microsoft and I’m excited that our new board will include them as a non-voting observer.”

The arrangement appears to be a compromise between OpenAI and Microsoft, which had pushed for changes to the AI nonprofit’s bizarre governance structure that had allowed its old board to oust Altman on Nov. 17.

Reports earlier this week had said OpenAI would not offer a full board seat to Microsoft, which reportedly has a 49% ownership stake in the firm and has committed more than $10 billion toward its long-term development.

Sam Altman has officially returned as OpenAI’s CEO. Steve Jennings

So far, OpenAI has named former Twitter chairman Bret Taylor, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo to its board.

The final version is expected to consist of nine members, with Taylor serving as board chair.

Microsoft and other key investors were blindsided by Altman’s firing and reportedly found out about the ouster just moments before it was announced.

For Microsoft, the presence of an observer on the board will help avoid similar surprises in the future.

Taylor said he was “pleased” that Microsoft would be involved.

“We will build a qualified, diverse Board of exceptional individuals whose collective experience represents the breadth of OpenAI’s mission — from technology to safety to policy,” Taylor said in a message to employees.

Sam Altman thanked Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (pictured) for his recent support during the turmoil. Getty Images

Meanwhile, Altman and other current and former OpenAI executives have continued to dodge questions about the circumstances behind his firing.

In an interview with The Verge, Altman sidestepped multiple questions about what prompted the board to remove him.

“The board is going to do an independent review here. I very much welcome that. I don’t have much else to say now, but I’m looking forward to learning more.

OpenAI’s previous board shocked the tech world earlier this month after claiming it had lost confidence in Altman as the company’s leader.

The board members claimed that Altman was “not consistently candid” in his communications with them.

Microsoft will hold a non-voting observer seat on OpenAI’s board. AFP via Getty Images

D’Angelo is the only board member to retain his seat.

Departing board members include Altman and Brockman themselves, as well as chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, Tasha McCauley of GeoSim Systems and Helen Toner, director at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology.

Sutskever notably supported the effort to fire Altman, though he later admitted on X that he regretted participating in the move.

“I love and respect Ilya, I think he’s a guiding light of the field and a gem of a human being. I harbor zero ill will towards him,” Altman told employees.

“While Ilya will no longer serve on the board, we hope to continue our working relationship and are discussing how he can continue his work at OpenAI.”

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