Microsoft to take non-voting, observer position on OpenAI's board

FILE PHOTO: OpenAI logo is seen in this illustration taken, February 3, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

(Reuters) -Microsoft will take a non-voting, observer position on OpenAI's board, CEO Sam Altman said in his first official missive after taking back the reins of the company on Wednesday.

The observer position means Microsoft's representative can attend OpenAI's board meetings and access confidential information, but it does not have voting rights on matters including electing or choosing directors.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who had recruited Altman to Microsoft after his ouster from OpenAI, had said earlier that governance at the ChatGPT maker needs to change.

OpenAI said last week announced a new initial board that consists of former Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor as chair and Larry Summers, former U.S. Treasury Secretary. Quora CEO Adam D'Angelo, who was part of the board who fired Altman, also stayed on for the new one.

The new OpenAI board is on an active search for six new members with expertise in fields from technology to safety and policy. OpenAI investors are unlikely to get a seat on the non-profit board, sources told Reuters.

Microsoft has committed to invest over $10 billion into OpenAI and owns 49% of the company. It did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Mira Murati, who had been OpenAI's chief technology officer and was briefly named interim CEO after Altman's ouster, is once again the company's CTO.

OpenAI ousted Altman on Nov. 17 without any detailed cause, setting off alarm bells among investors and employees. He was reinstated four days later with the promise of a new board.

Altman's exit sparked confusion about the future of the startup at the center of an artificial intelligence boom.

His co-founder Greg Brockman, who had followed Altman out of the company, would return as president, Altman said on Wednesday.

"Greg and I are partners in running this company. We have never quite figured out how to communicate that on the org chart, but we will," Altman said.

OpenAI's chief scientist Ilya Sutskever will no longer be part of the board, Altman said.

Sutskever had joined in the effort to fire Altman but later signed an employee letter demanding his return, expressing regret for his "participation in the board's actions."

"I love and respect Ilya, I think he's a guiding light of the field and a gem of a human being. I harbor zero ill will towards him," Altman said, adding the company was discussing how Sutskever could continue his work at OpenAI.

Apart from Altman, Brockman, Sutskever, D'Angelo, OpenAI's previous board consisted of entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, Helen Toner, director of strategy at Georgetown's Center for Security and Emerging Technology.

(Reporting by Akanksha Khushi in Bengaluru, Krystal Hu in New York, and Sayantani Ghosh in San Francisco; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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