The dust has started to settle after Sam Altman's dramatic ousting and equally sensational return as OpenAI CEO, but there's still plenty of commotion as the new board of the ChatGPT owner becomes official with the blockbuster news that Microsoft will get a non-voting seat in AI's room where it happens. Here's all the other key changes, new OpenAI board members, and a quick look at who's hit the road.
A new OpenAI board was almost certainly apre-conditions for Altman’s return as CEO. After all, Altman was fired by the old group of directors, ostensibly for failing to be “…consistently candid in his communications with the board.” However, it increasingly looks like the real reason for the attempted coup was concerns over OpenAI Q*, the company's reported AGI superintelligence breakthrough.
Whatever the case, three OpenAI board members have moved on to pastures new, while fresh faces have been brought in to replace them in the form of Bret Taylor and Larry Summers. Who are they and what else is happening with the OpenAI board right now? Read on to find out.
OpenAI Board Confirmed with Final Addition of Microsoft
In a new blog post, OpenAI and Sam Altman have confirmed its new look “initial” board comprised of chair Bret Taylor, Larry Summers and Adam D'Angelo.
That much we already knew, but the big news is that in his first public act for the company, Taylor announced the OpenAI board would include Microsoft as a “non-voting observer.”
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Microsoft, of course, now famously hired both Sam Altman and OpenAI President Greg Brockman for roughly 24 hours after Altman was deposed – and was understood to be ready to welcome hundreds more defectors from OpenAI, in the event of a mass resignation resulting from Altman's firing.
Altman also addressed the elephant in the room regarding the new OpenAI's board glaring lack of diversity. With all of its former female board members now engaged elsewhere, the returned CEO's blog referenced the “important task of building out a board of diverse perspectives,” again highlighting that the current setup is only the initial group of individuals, with further additions to the company's boardroom expected.
Who is Bret Taylor? New OpenAI Board Member is Former Salesforce CEO
Bret Taylor is a 43-year-old American computer programmer, entrepreneur and the new chair of the OpenAI board.
Taylor is perhaps best known as the former co-CEO of Salesforce. He shared the prestigious post with Marc Benioff between November 2021 and January 2023, having previously served as the CRM giant’s president and COO. Among other things, he spearheaded the company’s acquisition of Slack.
The Stanford University graduate is no one-hit wonder, however. He served as chairman of Twitter alongside his 9-to-5 at Salesforce, but left the microblogging platform in 2022 when a certain Elon Musk bought the company – and promptly culled its entire board to make himself feel at home.
Taylor also played a pivotal role in the development of two products you’ve probably used before. Launching his career as an Associate Product Manager at Google, he was part of a team of 50 Googlers who helped integrate Where 2 Technologies into the search giant’s portfolio. The product would go on become Google Maps.
After Google, he helped co-found and served as CEO of one of America's OG social networks, FriendFeed, which was acquired by Facebook in 2009 and brought with it a feature now synonymous with the social media giant: the Like button.
Taylor replaces Altman ally Greg Brockman as OpenAI chairman, with both Altman and Brockman deciding against returning to their former seats on the board.
Who is Larry Summers? OpenAI Board Adds Outspoken Economist
Lawrence “Larry” Summers is a 68-year-old American economist who has previously held a number of prestigious posts in the world of economics.
These include being the US Secretary of the Treasury under Bill Clinton between 1999 and 2001 and then president of the National Economic Council under Barack Obama from 2009-2011.
In between holding this high-ranking governmental posts, Summers served as president of his alma mater, Harvard University, from 2001-2006. Earlier in his career, he was Chief Economist at the World Bank (1991 to 1993), where he counted future Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg among his mentees.
Away from his distinguished resume, Sanders is a man known for his strong opinions on all things economic, famously calling the Biden administration’s flagship $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan “the least responsible policy we’ve had in the last 40 years.”
In a similar vein, he referred to the UK’s “Brexit” withdrawal from the EU “the worst self-inflicted policy wound that a country has done since the Second World War”.
While his economic pedigree can't be doubted, there's also no shying away from the fact that he's a more polarizing figure than Taylor, with some of his comments and views being judged controversial in the past.
Who is Adam D’Angelo? The OpenAI Board Member Who Survived
The third and currently final member of the new OpenAI board is 39-year-old American Adam D'Angelo, best known as the co-founder and current CEO of Quora.
A graduate of the California Institute of Technology, his career started in the social media world, with D'Angelo joining Facebook shortly after its launch in 2004. He rose to be its Chief Technology Officer between 2006 and 2008, whilst also serving as its VP of Engineering.
He is the lone OpenAI board member to have survived the recent chaos surround Sam Altman's firing and rehiring, for reasons that remain unclear. That said, he's widely regarded as one of Silicon Valley's brightest minds and won a silver medal in the 2002 Olympiad in Infomatics, the Olympics of the computer science world.
Away from OpenAI, D'Angelo has his own AI startup called Poe, and was a notable investor in both Instagram and the project management platform Asana.
His leadership style at Quora has come into the spotlight as a result of his role in Altman saga, with The Information reporting that he has never once been known to change his stance on a position or issue.
Is Sam Altman on the OpenAI Board?
While Sam Altman was previously on the OpenAI board, it is understood that the newly returned CEO of the ChatGPT developer will no longer be occupying a board seat.
Nor will OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman, who followed Altman out of the revolving OpenAI door but has now also returned. Prior to the attempted coup, Altman and Brockman were two of the six board members.
It will be a major change for Altman, who has been part of the OpenAI board since back in 2015 when the company was born. The initial board then consisted of just two members: Altman and Elon Musk.
Who Was on the OpenAI Board?
Prior to the situation surrounding Sam Altman's leadership, there were six OpenAI board members.
In addition to Altman, co-founder and president Greg Brockman, and the retained Adam D'Angelo, a trio of big names have now left their roles in the OpenAI boardroom after the ultimately failed coup.
- Ilya Sutskever
- Tasha McCauley
- Helen Toner
Of these, Sutskever is perhaps the most noteworthy – or at least played the biggest part in briefly overthrowing Altman.
An OpenAI co-founder and still (for now) listing himself as its Chief Scientist, Sutskever quickly reversed course and said he regretted ousting Altman.
I deeply regret my participation in the board's actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we've built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company.
— Ilya Sutskever (@ilyasut) November 20, 2023
For their part, McCauley is a robotics engineer and the CEO of GeoSim Systems, while Helen Toner is a Research Associate with the Centre for the Governance of AI, as well as Director of Strategy at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology.
What the Heck Happened at OpenAI?
Chaos, in a word. Late last week, the OpenAI board fired CEO Sam Altman, prompting mass employee protests and the resignation of another leading face at ChatGPT, Greg Brockman.
In almost the same breath as Altman was fired, speculation emerged linking him with a swift return to the company, though by Monday morning it looked like water under the bridge.
Altman had accepted a new job at Microsoft, while former Twitch boss Emmett Shear had been appointed as new interim CEO at OpenAI.
However, the saga wasn’t over yet. Eventually, the weight of more than 700 of OpenAI’s roughly 770 employees calling for the board’s resignation and Altman’s reinstatement was too much and on Wednesday, November 22 it was confirmed that Altman would return.
This, in turn, meant the departure of Ilya Sutskever, Helen Toner and Tasha McCauley from the OpenAI board, with Bret Taylor and Larry Summers brought in as part of the new line-up.
In the end, it's thought that as many as six additional new OpenAI board members could be brought in over the coming weeks, though there's no indication as yet who they might be.
Watch this space, as we'll update this guide to feature any and all new OpenAI board members that get announced.