Microsoft, Apple withdraw from OpenAI board amid heightened antitrust scrutiny

A man stands on a stage in front of a screen, showing the OpenAI and Microsoft logos.
Microsoft, led by CEO Satya Nadella, is OpenAI’s largest investor. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As regulators in the U.S. and Europe continue to crack down on corporate partnerships in the vibrant world of AI, both Microsoft (MSFT) and Apple (AAPL) are resigning from their seats on OpenAI’s board. Microsoft CEO Dee Templeton has been a nonvoting member of OpenAI’s board since the beginning of the year, while Apple CEO Phil Schiller was set to join as a nonvoting observer in late 2024.

Yesterday (July 9), Microsoft informed OpenAI that the withdrawal would be “effective immediately,” as first reported by the Financial Times , which also noted that Apple had decided to reject the board’s offer. In order to continue to keep its partners informed about the organization’s inner workings, OpenAI will instead begin holding regular meetings with both companies.

Microsoft is OpenAI’s largest investor, having poured about $13 billion into the company. Their partnership, which began five years ago, integrates OpenAI’s AI technology into Microsoft products and provides computing power to OpenAI. Despite Microsoft’s large investment, OpenAI maintains that it “remains a completely independent company.” It currently operates as a nonprofit that operates a limited-profit subsidiary from which Microsoft is entitled to a percentage of the profits — although OpenAI CEO Sam Altman reportedly intends to restructure the entire organization into a fully for-profit model.

In November, Microsoft was shocked when Altman was briefly removed from OpenAI’s board. Shortly after Altman was reinstated as CEO and a new board was formed, he was given a non-voting board observer role to be better informed about the company’s decision-making. However, in a letter to OpenAI yesterday, written by Microsoft’s deputy general counsel Keith Dolliver, the company said that while the position “provided insight into the board’s activities without compromising its independence,” the role was no longer “necessary” and reaffirmed its confidence in OpenAI’s direction, according to the Financial Times.

Why this change of mind?

The withdrawal comes amid heightened scrutiny of Microsoft’s partnership with OpenAI, which has boosted the Big Tech company’s profits and market capitalization. The European Commission, which previously withdrew from a review of whether the entanglement violated European Union merger rules, is now considering whether both companies merit an antitrust probe; while the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority is investigating whether the partnership amounted to a “gain of control.” The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is also currently investigating whether OpenAI and Microsoft violated antitrust laws.

While Apple may not yet be facing as much scrutiny when it comes to AI regulation, it recently formalized its ties with OpenAI with a partnership that will see the latest version of ChatGPT integrated into Apple devices. While it was revealed earlier this month that Apple’s Schiller would be joining OpenAI’s board to further strengthen the relationship between the two companies, Apple has since decided to backtrack.

With Microsoft and Apple no longer having access to board meetings, OpenAI will use a different method of keeping key partners informed in the future. Microsoft and Apple, in addition to OpenAI investors such as Thrive Capital and Khosla Ventures, will now attend meetings with the company. “We will be holding regular stakeholder meetings in the future to share progress toward our mission and ensure stronger security collaboration,” an OpenAI spokesperson told the Guardian in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to receive feedback and advice from these key stakeholders.”

Microsoft, Apple withdraw from OpenAI board amid heightened antitrust scrutiny