OpenAI’s fired CEO Sam Altman to join Microsoft

Microsoft CEO and Chairman Satya Nadella says Altman will lead “new advanced AI research team” at the company.

Sam Altman has become one of the most sought-after voices on the potential benefits and dangers of AI [File: Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters]

Sam Altman, who was fired as the CEO of ChatGPT creator OpenAI, will join Microsoft to lead a new team focused on artificial intelligence, the tech giant has announced.

Microsoft CEO and Chairman Satya Nadella said on Monday that Altman, fellow OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman and other former OpenAI employees will oversee a “new advanced AI research team” at the company.

“We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success,” Nadella said on X, formerly Twitter.

Nadella said Microsoft looked forward to working with OpenAI’s new leadership team, including interim CEO Emmett Shear, and remained committed to its partnership with the AI startup, in which it has reportedly invested $13bn.

The announcement comes after tech news site The Information reported on Sunday that Altman would not return to OpenAI despite executives’ efforts to bring him back.

Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI co-founder and board director, told staff on Sunday night that Altman would not be coming back after a weekend of negotiations with the board of directors, company leaders and investors, The Information said.

OpenAI did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Al Jazeera.

Altman, who became the public face of AI with the releases of ChatGPT and GPT-4, was abruptly fired on Friday after the company’s board determined he was “not consistently candid in his communications”.

The announcement of Altman’s departure sent shockwaves through the tech sector and prompted the resignation of Brockman, president and co-founder of OpenAI.

Three senior researchers also submitted their resignations following the news, according to The Information.

Altman said in posts on X that his firing was a “weird experience” and “sorta like reading your own eulogy while you’re still alive”, and that “if I start going off, the OpenAI board should go after me for the full value of my shares”.

Unlike other tech founders such as Mark Zuckerberg, Altman did not have equity in OpenAI and could be fired at any time, the news site Semafor reported earlier this year.

On Sunday, Altman posted an image on X of himself wearing an OpenAI guest badge, saying it would be the “first and last time I ever wear one of these”.

Altman, who helped found OpenAI in 2015, has been among the most sought-after voices on the potential benefits and dangers of AI since last year’s release of ChatGPT, speaking at business summits and testifying before the US Congress.

In September, New York Magazine published a profile comparing Altman with J Robert Oppenheimer – known as the father of the atomic bomb – and Time magazine included the tech entrepreneur on its list of the 100 most influential people in AI in 2023.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies