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OpenAI officially brings its CEO Sam Altman back to its board of directors

sam altman

In November 2023, the board of directors at generative AI company OpenAI suddenly, and with no warning, fired its CEO and co-founder Sam Altman, and removed him from his position on the board. For the next few days, there was chaos at OpenAI as most employees stood by Altman and efforts were made to bring him back. That finally happened five days later, as Altman returned as CEO, while the board members who voted to fire him agreed to depart.

OpenAI said it would conduct an investigation into what happened during those five days, and late on Friday, it announced that the third-party group that ran its investigation had completed its work. As a result, the decision was made to bring back Altman to the company's board. Also, the board "expressed its full confidence" in continuing to keep Altman as OpenAI's CEO and Greg Brockman as its President.

The blog post also announced that three new board members have been added. They are Dr. Sue Desmond-Hellmann, the former CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Nicole Seligman, the former EVP and General Counsel at Sony, and Fidji Simo, the current CEO of Instacart.

OpenAI said it will add some improvements to how the company is run. That will include adding new corporate governance guidelines, an anonymous whistleblower hotline, and more.

As far as the investigation into Altman's firing in November, OpenAI said WilmerHale, the third-party group that looked into the matter, conducted "dozens of interviews" with prior members of the company's board and others, along with looking into 30,000 documents.

In the end, the blog post stated that in WilmerHale's opinion, a lack of trust had developed between the prior board members and Altman. However, it added:

WilmerHale found the prior Board implemented its decision on an abridged timeframe, without advance notice to key stakeholders, and without a full inquiry or an opportunity for Mr. Altman to address the prior Board’s concerns.

WilmerHale stated that while OpenAI's prior board members "acted within its broad discretion" to fire Altman, it did say "his conduct did not mandate removal."

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