In yet another huge twist in the OpenAI leadership saga, ousted chief executive officer Sam Altman, who had reportedly been negotiating to return to the company, has been snapped up, along with his OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman, to head an advanced AI research unit at Microsoft.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made the announcement on X (formerly Twitter) late Sunday night.
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
Brockman later revealed that OpenAI colleagues Jakub Pachocki, director of research, research scientist Szymon Sidor and head of preparedness Aleksander Madry are also joining the new Microsoft unit.
Nadella said on X, “I’m super excited to have you join as CEO of this new group, Sam, setting a new pace for innovation. We’ve learned a lot over the years about how to give founders and innovators space to build independent identities and cultures within Microsoft, including GitHub, Mojang Studios, and LinkedIn, and I’m looking forward to having you do the same.”
Meanwhile, at OpenAI, interim CEO Mira Murati has already been replaced by Twitch co-founder and former CEO Emmett Shear, who plans to hire an independent investigator to look into the process that led to Altman’s firing, according to the Verge.
That may not be enough; Wired reported this morning that more than 500 OpenAI employees have signed a letter to the board protesting Altman’s termination and threating to follow him to Microsoft. Journalist Kara Swisher posted the letter on X.
— Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) November 20, 2023
It said in part, “your actions have made it obvious that you are incapable of overseeing OpenAI. We are unable to work for or with people that lack competence, judgement and care for our mission and employees.”
It went on to say that, unless all current board members resign, two new lead independent board members are appointed, and Altman and Brockman are reinstated, the signatories will take action “imminently”.
Shortly before the letter was released, one signatory, chief scientist (and board member) Ilya Sutskever, who Wired reported was blamed for coordinating the board’s action against Altman, posted on X, “I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together and I will do everything I can to reunite the company.”