What a weekend it’s been! After a 48-hour rollercoaster ride following the surprising firing of OpenAI’s co-founder and former CEO, Sam Altman, here’s the latest twist: Microsoft has snapped up Altman after the OpenAI board rejected his return.
In an announcement early this morning, Microsoft revealed that it had hired Sam Altman and President Greg Brockman to lead an advanced research lab. OpenAI board also announced that Emmett Shear, the former CEO of Twitch, will replace Mira Murati as OpenAI interim CEO, the New York Times reported.
In a memo, OpenAI said: “The board firmly stands by its decision as the only path to advance and defend the mission of OpenAI,” The Times wrote. This move comes after the duo was ousted from their positions at OpenAI by the board. Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, is being hailed for turning an unexpected situation into a strategic win.
In a post on X, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said:
“We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners. We look forward to getting to know Emmett Shear and OAI’s new leadership team and working with them. And 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. We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success.”
We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners. We look forward to getting to know Emmett…
— Satya Nadella (@satyanadella) November 20, 2023
The news comes less than 12 hours after The Information reported on Sunday that Sam Altman was in talks about a possible return to OpenAI even as he considers launching a new AI venture. “Two days after OpenAI’s board of directors fired him, Sam Altman joined executives at the company’s San Francisco headquarters Sunday as they pushed the board to reinstate him and other recently departed executives,” The Information wrote.
On SundayAltman posted an image of himself wearing an OpenAI guest badge on the messaging platform X, with the caption: “First and last time I ever wear one of these.”
It all started on Friday when Altman was unceremoniously fired by OpenAI’s board without any prior notice, not even to Microsoft, which had invested a substantial $13 billion in the creator of ChatGPT. Brockman resigned in protest, causing significant upheaval at the influential tech company.
In response to Altman’s dismissal, the tech community rallied behind him and Brockman, criticizing the board’s decision, with some comparing it to the controversial firing of Steve Jobs by Apple in 1985.
Top investors in OpenAI, including Microsoft, were unhappy with the situation and attempted to persuade Altman and Brockman to return over the weekend. However, those efforts were unsuccessful. To fill the gap left by Altman, OpenAI brought in Emmett Shear, the former CEO of Twitch, as an interim replacement.
The exact reasons for Altman’s removal remain unclear, with the board citing a “breakdown in communications” rather than any misconduct. However, reports suggest a disagreement over Altman’s ambitious plans for rapid growth. Some board members, concerned about the potential risks of AI, preferred a more cautious approach, contrasting with Altman’s push to commercialize the powerful ChatGPT chatbot quickly.
Looking ahead, Microsoft’s relationship with OpenAI might be strained at the moment, but by bringing in leading AI thinkers Altman and Brockman, Nadella has not only preserved but also strengthened Microsoft’s position in what could be one of the most disruptive technologies of this generation. In the end, this unexpected turn of events has made a $2.7 trillion company even wealthier.
Meanwhile, the future of OpenAI under Shear’s leadership remains uncertain. Only time will tell how this change in leadership shapes the company’s direction.
OpenAI was founded in 2015 by Elon Musk and Sam Altman as a non-profit research institution with a singular mission to forge the path toward the creation of safe and advantageous artificial general intelligence (AGI). Throughout its journey, OpenAI has built a series of remarkable AI systems, among them the influential GPT-3 language model and the innovative DALL-E 2 image generation model. The company has received at least $13 billion in investment from Microsoft and is reportedly valued at $86 billion.