Explaining OpenAI’s Board Shake-Up

For much of the past year, OpenAI’s board of directors has been criticized as too small and too divided to effectively govern one of the fastest-growing start-ups in Silicon Valley history.

On Friday, the board’s dysfunction spilled into public view when four of its members fired Sam Altman, OpenAI’s popular and powerful chief executive. The dismissal uncorked five turbulent days, as Mr. Altman rallied almost all of the company’s 770 employees to lobby for the board’s resignation and his reinstatement.

Mr. Altman, 38, returned to the company on Tuesday night, after days of haggling over his job and over the makeup of the board.

The board and Mr. Altman’s allies discussed more than a half dozen options for its future. They considered a board size of three to seven members and discussed about 30 candidates, including Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs and founder of the Emerson Collective, and Brian Chesky, the chief executive of Airbnb. The departing board wanted to be sure the replacements would be independent thinkers and experienced enough to stand up to Mr. Altman.

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