Image credits: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg/Getty Images
In interviews on CNBC And Bloomberg Television Tonight, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made it clear that it’s possible that Sam Altman, who was fired as CEO of OpenAI on Friday by the AI startup’s board, could returning to OpenAI to some extent.
This is despite Altman announcing this morning his intention to join a new AI research team at Microsoft alongside former OpenAI President Greg Brockman and several former OpenAI researchers.
“Obviously, we want Sam and Greg to have a fantastic home if they don’t want to be in OpenAI,” Nadella said in an interview on CNBC. When asked if Altman would return to OpenAI, Nadella added: “It’s, you know, (the) board and management of OpenAI and the employees to choose… (Microsoft) chose to explicitly partnering with OpenAI (and) obviously it depends on who OpenAI stays there or comes to Microsoft, so I’m open to both options.
Nadella’s responses appear to confirm an article published earlier today by The Verge, which suggested that Altman’s move to Microsoft was not a done deal and that – with the recent change of heart of the chief scientist at ‘OpenAI, Ilya Sutskever, the mastermind behind Altman’s departure – just two of OpenAI’s three remaining board members must turn around to bring Altman back. (Brockman was removed as board chairman on Friday, and Altman previously held the sixth seat.)
Nadella also said that Microsoft would like to see “something change around the governance” of OpenAI in the future, including regarding its relations with investors. (Microsoft, along with OpenAI’s other backers and most OpenAI employees, were reportedly informed of the “minutes” of Altman’s firing before it was made public.) OpenAI is governed by a non-profit organization to which the board of directors and investors, including Microsoft, belong. , which has invested more than $10 billion in OpenAI to date – does not have a seat on the said board of directors.
“It’s clear that something needs to change as far as governance goes — we’ll have a good dialogue with their board about that and we’ll look at that as it evolves,” Nadella said on CNBC.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride at OpenAI to say the least since Altman’s firing.
Over the weekend, OpenAI’s leadership team and backers, including CTO Mira Murat, who was briefly named interim CEO, began selecting candidates to replace the board in view of a possible return of Altman. Meanwhile, the board conducted its own CEO search, ultimately choosing Emmett Shear, the co-founder of Twitch, after Nat Friedman, CEO of GitHub, and Alex Wang, CEO of Scale AI, declined offers.
Shear, who has a colorful history, proved to be a controversial choice internally. Employees reportedly refused to attend an emergency all-hands call scheduled for Sunday with Shear, responding to OpenAI’s Slack announcement with a “fuck you” emoji.
Speaking of which, OpenAI’s rank and file is in widespread revolt: More than 700 of the company’s roughly 770 employees, including Sutskever, have signed a letter calling on the board to resign and reinstate Altman. Among other things, Salesforce has attempted to use the unrest as a recruiting opportunity, offering matching compensation to any researcher who leaves OpenAI to join the Salesforce AI research team.
The board’s reluctance to provide detailed reasons for Altman’s dismissal doesn’t help matters. Mow said in a memo to employees Sunday that its first task would be “to hire an independent investigator to dig deeper into the entire process that has led up to this point and generate a comprehensive report.”
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