The replaced director of OpenAI’s board allages ‘intimidation’ tactic

During the pre-Thanksgiving holiday turmoil at OpenAI, CEO Sam Altman’s sudden termination by the board of directors brought attention to some less prominent board members. Helen Toner, a 31-year-old academic from Australia, was one of them and quickly faced online criticism for her involvement in removing the well-liked AI chief. In a Thursday interview with the Wall Street Journal, Toner shared her perspective on the 5-day ordeal and accused the company of employing an “intimidation tactic” to pressure her into reinstating Altman as the CEO.

The board’s dismissal of Altman was rooted in trust issues, arising from frequent clashes with Toner since her 2021 board membership. Amidst staff threats to quit and a backlash, Toner resisted an attempt by an OpenAI lawyer to reverse the decision, asserting that even potential self-destruction could align with the mission of ensuring AGI benefits humanity. Media coverage highlighted Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s efforts to reinstate Altman and public displeasure from investors. Toner clarified that the decision was about effective supervision, not impeding OpenAI’s work. The current board includes Bret Taylor as chairman, Lawrence Summers, and D’Angelo, focusing on building a qualified and diverse board. Toner expressed respect for the team and the incoming board, omitting mention of Altman’s name.


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