Fired OpenAI boss Sam Altman may join Microsoft
Worst season of Succession ever
Updated The story of Sam Altman and OpenAI took a twist this morning that even the most hallucinatory of chatbots would struggle to conjure: he and other OpenAI chums - including co-founder Greg Brockman - may be off to Microsoft.
Altman was abruptly ousted from OpenAI on Friday and was followed through the doors by several OpenAI members, including Brockman. After a frenzied weekend of speculation, it appears that Microsoft has scooped up the team, and tipped them into an AI research unit for which Altman will serve as CEO. Or so the Windows giant strongly hopes.
Nadella opened this morning by insisting that Microsoft remains committed to OpenAI - after all, it has poured billions into the lab. However, it isn't easy to see how Microsoft will keep both plates spinning after opening its doors to Altman and other former OpenAI staffers.
OpenAI's board's reasons for ejecting Altman remain officially unclear. Under Altman's leadership, the upstart has seen its value skyrocket and, according to reports, was in talks to sell employees' shares at an $86 billion valuation. It's hard to regard that deal as looking anything other than uncertain following the sudden departure of several top executives.
Beginning with the abrupt removal of Altman, the weekend continued with the departure of fellow OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman and then rumors that perhaps Altman might be asked back, or maybe not, depending on changes to the structure and governance of the business. Then former CTO Mira Murati briefly became interim CEO before former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear took up the chalice this morning.
At this rate, we will all get to be interim CEO of OpenAI before long.
It is not clear if Murati will be joining Altman at Microsoft. We will update as things develop.
As for where this leaves Microsoft, the answer is between a rock and a hard place. The Windows vendor has bet big on the application of AI, embedded OpenAI's chat-driven models throughout its products and services, invested billions into OpenAI, and owns a substantial chunk of the company. It will be interesting to watch how Nadella intends to manage Microsoft's relationship with OpenAI while opening its arms to the lab's former CEO – who was dismissed under mysterious circumstances.
- OpenAI CEO Sam Altman's ejection sparks theories as odd as some ChatGPT output
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As for Shear, he posted that he has a three-point plan for the next 30 days: setting up an independent investigation to report on what led us to where we are now, talking to customers and employees, and finally reforming the management team.
Shear said: "Depending on the results [of] everything we learn from these, I will drive changes in the organization — up to and including pushing strongly for significant governance changes if necessary. I will be rolling these out as they become clear over the 30 day period.
"OpenAI's stability and success are too important to allow turmoil to disrupt them like this. I will endeavor to address the key concerns as well, although in many cases I believe it may take longer than a month to achieve true progress."
Seeing how things have gone over the last few days, 30 days seems an ambitious tenure for an OpenAI executive. ®
Updated to add
It's still not a given that Altman will join Microsoft. It's rumored he would prefer to be back at OpenAI – with certain changes made – and Redmond has indicated it would be happy with that, if anything to bring some stability to this fiasco.