Danish Kapoor
Danish Kapoor

Sam Altman returns to OpenAI board

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An independent investigation by OpenAI’s nonprofit board found that CEO Sam Altman’s actions did not warrant his removal. Altman, who survived a boardroom coup last November, is now returning to the board.

In the press release on the subject, board chairman Bret Taylor stated that the law firm WilmerHale reviewed “more than 30,000 documents” by interviewing board members and employees and concluded that Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman “are the right leaders for OpenAI.”

In addition to Altman, Taylor announced three new members hired to OpenAI’s board: Sue Desmond-Hellmann, former CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Nicole Seligman, a former legal executive at Sony, and CEO of Instacart Fidji Simo. These members; Taylor will run OpenAI’s nonprofit parent company alongside Altman, Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, and Larry Summers.

OpenAI and Sam Altman’s journey

The publicly available summary of OpenAI’s WilmerHale research appears to lack detail for those wondering why Altman was suddenly dismissed last fall. The law firm said it believed the board would “alleviate internal governance challenges” by abruptly removing Altman, and that the “decision was not driven by concerns about product safety or security, pace of development, OpenAI’s financial condition, or disclosures to investors, customers, or business partners.” .

The investigation’s summary uses vague language that OpenAI’s previous board used to justify its decision to oust Altman: What OpenAI employees call “The Blip” is described as “a result of the deterioration of the relationship and loss of trust between the previous board and Sam Altman.” . WilmerHale concluded that the previous board acted “without advance notice to key stakeholders and without the opportunity to address Altman’s previous board’s concerns.”

In a brief video call with reporters on Friday, Altman apologized for “believing a former OpenAI board member had harmed OpenAI through his actions,” but declined to go into further detail. It was widely reported that Altman clashed with former board member Helen Toner, who co-authored an academic paper critical of OpenAI’s approach to security, and that others were concerned about conflicts of interest arising from Altman’s other investments.

OpenAI announced plans to “strengthen” its conflict of interest policy for employees on Friday, but did not provide details and said it would create a tip line for employees and subcontractors.

During the call with reporters, Altman looked cheerful as Bret Taylor sat next to him. At one point, he was asked about the employment status of co-founder and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, who played a key role in the failed coup attempt but switched sides after the majority of OpenAI employees threatened to resign if Altman did not return.

Sutskever has remained silent since then, raising questions about his relationship with the company. In the interview, Altman said that there was nothing to announce, but that “Ilya is great” and that he “hopes to work with him for the rest of his career.” Altman stated that recent leaks were intended to turn company members against each other, but this did not work, and expressed that he was glad that this whole incident was over.

Danish Kapoor