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Business News/ Companies / News/  OpenAI’s new board takes over and says Microsoft will have observer role
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OpenAI’s new board takes over and says Microsoft will have observer role

wsj

The group of directors will expand and strengthen governance structure following CEO Sam Altman’s surprise ouster and return.

The new board’s initial three members were decided as part of CEO Sam Altman’s return last week after the previous board abruptly fired him. Premium
The new board’s initial three members were decided as part of CEO Sam Altman’s return last week after the previous board abruptly fired him.

OpenAI’s new board formally took over on Wednesday and said it would add an observer role for partner Microsoft, capping a dramatic chapter for the artificial-intelligence startup and launching a new phase of difficult decisions.

The new board’s initial three members were decided as part of CEO Sam Altman’s return last week after the previous board abruptly fired him. The replacement directors’ priorities include creating an independent committee to review the events around Altman’s ouster, OpenAI’s interim chairman, Bret Taylor, said in a note to employees on Wednesday.

He added that the directors also will enhance OpenAI’s governance structure so all stakeholders “can trust that OpenAI will continue to thrive," and that it is seeking a diverse slate of additional directors to expand the board.

The plan to include an observer for Microsoft, a role that Taylor said will be nonvoting, gives some indication of how the new board will handle one of the many thorny questions it needs to address: whether OpenAI’s investors will have more input and visibility into its future governance.

Microsoft, which has invested some $13 billion in OpenAI, and other investors were blindsided by the decision by four members of the prior board to fire Altman as chief executive on Nov. 17. That decision triggered five days of chaos during which investors pressured directors to reinstate Altman and employees threatened to quit en masse.

In a note to employees Wednesday, Altman thanked a long list of advisers, partners and fellow executives, and praised OpenAI employees’ loyalty. He said persistence was central to achieving the company’s overall goal of developing artificial general intelligence, or AI systems that mimic or surpass human intelligence.

The company didn’t lose any customers during the ordeal, Altman said.

“You stood firm for each other, this company, and our mission," Altman wrote. “One of the most important things for the team that builds AGI safely is the ability to handle stressful and uncertain situations, and maintain good judgment throughout. Top marks."

Altman, in a key concession to outgoing directors as part of the agreement for his return, doesn’t have a place on the board.

The board’s other two initial members are Larry Summers, the former U.S. Treasury secretary, and Adam D’Angelo, CEO of question-and-answer website Quora and the sole member of OpenAI’s previous board to remain. Taylor is the former co-CEO of business-software giant Salesforce who also was the chairman of Twitter when it dealt with Elon Musk’s ultimately successful takeover effort.

Write to Deepa Seetharaman at deepa.seetharaman@wsj.com

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