Microsoft Hires Former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman – After unsuccessful efforts to restore Sam Altman as the CEO of OpenAI, Microsoft has enlisted him to lead a newly formed advanced artificial intelligence team. This announcement was made by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Monday. Following a weekend of intense boardroom developments, OpenAI’s non-profit board has appointed Emmett Shear, co-founder of Twitch, as the company’s third CEO within three days.
As the primary investor in OpenAI, Microsoft has swiftly integrated prominent figures in the AI sector. On Monday morning, Microsoft announced the appointment of Sam Altman and OpenAI’s former president, Greg Brockman, to spearhead a newly established advanced AI team within the company. “We’re extremely excited to share the news that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, together with colleagues, will be joining Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team.”
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“We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success,” wrote Nadella. Nadella expressed Microsoft’s unwavering commitment to OpenAI, yet the mention of OpenAI colleagues joining Altman and Brockman suggests that key personnel are transitioning to the top team at the company’s primary supporter.
There were indications of unrest among the remaining OpenAI staff on Monday morning. Altman’s short-lived successor as interim CEO, Mira Murati, posted on X in the wake of the Microsoft announcement that “OpenAI is nothing without its people”. Altman reposted the message with a heart emoji, while multiple OpenAI staff posted the same “nothing without its people” message in an apparently coordinated move.
On Friday, Altman was fired, accused of a lack of consistent candor with the board, causing ripples in Silicon Valley. OpenAI’s investors, spearheaded by Microsoft, endeavored to reinstate Altman. Weekend discussions ensued, accompanied by Altman sharing a photo wearing a guest pass at OpenAI’s offices. Regrettably, the negotiations faltered, leading OpenAI’s board to designate Shear as interim CEO, succeeding Altman’s temporary replacement, Murati, the company’s chief technology officer.
Shear has expressed a preference for a deliberate approach to AI development. However, in a statement on Monday, he clarified that Altman’s dismissal was not prompted by safety concerns. The emergence of ChatGPT, with its capabilities surprising experts and authorities, has heightened concerns that AI companies may be hastily advancing products without sufficient consideration for potential adverse effects, such as disseminating misinformation or eluding human oversight.
“The board did not remove Sam over any specific disagreement on safety, their reasoning was completely different from that. I’m not crazy enough to take this job without board support for commercializing our awesome models,” he wrote. On Sunday, Altman had posted an image of himself on X wearing an OpenAI guest badge stating “first and last time I ever wear one of these”.
The Wall Street Journal previously noted that Altman’s potential return hinged on a revamped board and governance structure, with Altman contemplating the possibility of founding a new company alongside former OpenAI colleagues. Reports indicate that Altman and former Apple design chief Jony Ive have been in discussions about developing a new AI hardware device, with SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son reportedly participating in the conversation.
The board’s decision to remove Altman on Friday resonated as a seismic event in the tech industry and among OpenAI staff. Altman was not only the face of the company but also a representative figure for the broader AI sector. The Verge suggested that other employees might depart if Altman did not make a return. A previous report cited a memo from the chief strategy officer, Jason Kwon, informing staff of ongoing efforts to reintegrate Altman and other departed senior colleagues.
Altman’s exit was followed by resignations from Brockman and three senior researchers: Jakub Pachocki, Aleksander Mądry, and Szymon Sidor. OpenAI operates under the governance of a non-profit parent and its board, overseeing a for-profit subsidiary led by Altman as CEO. Following the departures of Altman and Brockman, the current composition comprises four individuals: OpenAI’s chief scientist Ilya Sutskever and three external non-employees.