OpenAI Reinstates Sam Altman as a Board Member and Announces New Ones

IBL News | New York

Sam Altman, as CEO, will rejoin the OpenAI Board of Directors four months later after losing his seat and being fired, the company announced in a blog post yesterday.

Joining alongside him, three new members will be added to the Board: former CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Sue Desmond-Hellmann, ex-Sony Entertainment president Nicole Seligman, and Instacart CEO Fidji Simo. These additions will bring OpenAI’s board to seven people.

The members of the transitory board designated after Altman’s firing in November won’t be stepping down. Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor (OpenAI’s current board chair), Quora CEO, Adam D’Angelo, and Larry Summers, the economist and former Harvard president, will remain in their roles on the board, as will Dee Templeton, a Microsoft-appointed board observer.

The almost all-male board has received criticism given its lack of diversity.

• Desmond-Hellmann, in addition to heading the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for six years, was previously chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, and before that, president of product development at Genentech, where she helped develop gene-targeted cancer drugs. Desmond-Hellmann is an oncologist by training is and board-certified in both internal medicine and medical oncology.

• Nicole Seligman, an attorney and corporate director, received national attention for her representation of Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North during the Iran–Contra hearings and President Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial. Seligman was Sony’s VC and general counsel before rising through the ranks to CEO of Sony Corporation and president of Sony Corporation of America.

• Fidji Simo, before becoming CEO of Instacart, was head of the Facebook app at Meta and the VP overseeing Meta’s various video, games, and monetization efforts. Simo also co-founded — and is currently president of — The Metrodora Foundation, a health clinic and research institute.

Altman’s reinstatement and the board’s expansion also followed an investigation by the law firm WilmerHale, retained by OpenAI, that unanimously concluded that “Sam and OpenAI president Greg Brockman are the right leaders for OpenAI.”

But not all at OpenAI agree.

This week, The New York Times described Altman as a manipulative leader who undermines the credibility of those who challenged him. Both OpenAI CTO Mira Murati and Ilya Sutskever expressed concerns about Altman’s behavior prior to his ouster last year.