Former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has been hired by Microsoft (MSFT) after a dramatic three-day leadership shakeup at the AI research firm he founded. His abrupt firing surprised investors, with Headline Venture Partner Kamran Ansari likening it to "watching a telenovela."
Ansari notes while OpenAI has been massively influential, he argues Altman’s controversial exit raises concerns on tech governance. He compares Uber's board managing of former CEO Travis Kalanick's weeks-long transition, telling Yahoo Finance it was a "buttoned-up, professional process," unlike OpenAI's board promptly ousting Altman suddenly. Ansari suggests OpenAI's smaller, less experienced board may have mismanaged the situation.
"Just because someone has a fancy title like the 'head of technology'... that person may not have sat on a lot of private company or public company boards. And so it's unclear whether these folks that were kind of making this decision really had the purview perspective and the experience to be doing so," Ansari says.
For more expert insight and the latest market action, click here to watch this full episode of Yahoo Finance Live.
- So Kamran, let's just start with the general news here. And listen, the headlines keep shifting here, Kamran. We're not sure exactly how we're going to end up the day. But I want to get your take here. What did you make of the news so far? What was your take?
KAMRAN ANSARI: It's been astonishing. It's been like watching telenovela or soap opera these last few days. This is a company that is probably one of the most influential important companies that's emerged in the last decade or longer. And you've had three CEOs in the past 72 hours.
So it's still unclear exactly what's happening. And it's obviously the talk of not just the tech and the venture business, but now, more broadly, all over the general news, and the general public is also interested in what's happening here.
So it's been kind of a very unusual set of circumstances that's come together to have this happen. And I think a lot of it that I'm hearing, at least, in the tech and venture space is around what this says for just governance and corporate governance and really having folks think about, hey, how are boards comprised? Who are these board members exactly? Because a lot of times, that ends up being sort of an afterthought as you're putting together-- financing round for early stage companies.
Say, yeah, we'll put these guys on the board. And that's just how it's going to work. And then you realize that, no, these things actually do matter quite a bit.
- Well, what's so interesting to me, Kamran, is that discussion has been around for a while and we get these periodic reminders. This is a very dramatic one, to be sure. But why hasn't Silicon Valley gotten its act-- this is not news, right? Why haven't they gotten their act together on some discipline when it comes to these boards?
KAMRAN ANSARI: So you think about it-- you know, I really compare this, and what this reminded me of, was the situation with Uber, when they were replacing Travis Kalanick and they brought in Dara Khosrowshahi, who's been fantastic and an amazing CEO there.
But yeah, that process took place over the course of many weeks. And then there was a weekend-long board meeting. They had a 10, 12, 15 person board with public company CEOs and professional investors, members of the founding team there. So there were a ton of folks weighing in. It was a very kind of buttoned up professional process they went through. And they found that best answer for them was to make a change of the CEO and do that.
And this was a four-person board, or five-person board if you include Sam, which is a very unusual dynamic for a business of this scale. Normally, you would see something at this scale have 7, 9, 11 person board.
And then the makeup of the board itself-- I think Vinod Khosla put out a post today. Just because someone has a fancy title, like the Head of Technology Center at Georgetown whatever, that person may not have sat on a lot of private company or public company boards. And so it's unclear whether these folks that were kind of making this decision really had kind of the purview the perspective, and the experience to be doing so.