Sam Altman returning to OpenAI? How Satya Nadella of Microsoft backed ousted CEO

Earlier this month, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made a surprise visit to OpenAI’s developer conference. Microsoft has reportedly invested $13 billion in ChatGPT-maker OpenAI. “Our job No. 1 is to build the best system, so that you can build the best models and then make that all available to developers,” Nadella told OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, on stage at DevDay in San Francisco.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (R) greets then OpenAI CEO Sam Altman during the OpenAI DevDay event on November 6 in San Francisco, California. (AFP)

After Friday’s shocking decision of OpenAI to remove Altman, it was Nadella, whose Microsoft Corp. is the startup’s biggest backer, who has been working with investors, including Thrive Capital and Tiger Global Management, to bring back the ousted CEO, media reports claimed.

News agency Reuters reported that Altman is discussing a possible return to the company even as he considers launching a new artificial intelligence venture.

Bloomberg reported that Nadella has been in touch with Altman and pledged to support him in whatever steps he takes next, the people said. Nadella was blindsided by the board’s decision, according to people familiar with the situation.

Representatives of San Francisco-based OpenAI and Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft declined to comment. Thrive and Tiger Global declined to comment. Taylor did not respond to a request for comment, Bloomberg added.

CNBC reported that Microsoft boasts an exclusive licence on OpenAI’s GPT-4 large language model that can generate human-like prose in response to a few words of text. Microsoft is introducing a variety of products that employ GPT-4, including an AI add-on for its Office productivity app subscriptions and an assistant in Windows 11.

OpenAI’s chief technology fficer Mira Murati will serve as interim CEO, the company said, adding that it will conduct a formal search for a permanent CEO.

“Microsoft remains committed to Mira and their team as we bring this next era of AI to our customers,” a spokesperson for the software maker told Reuters on Friday.

In a statement published on Microsoft’s website, Nadella said: “We have a long-term agreement with OpenAI… Together, we will continue to deliver the meaningful benefits of this technology to the world.”

The OpenAI board has been subjected to intense criticism over its decision to remove Altman, which came as a surprise to both investors and to Altman himself. Over the years he pushed hard to change the company from a nonprofit to a commercially successful business and was the driving force behind new tools that have revolutionised the way people complete tasks from homework to coding. His ouster did not sit well with the firms that backed OpenAI.

As part of the effort to reinstate the CEO, investors are also pressing for the replacement of the current board, the people said. The directors have considered stepping down, though they are currently balking at such a move, the people added. The situation is fluid and final plans have not been set. If the board steps down, investors are reviewing a list of possible new directors. One contender is Bret Taylor, the former co-CEO of Salesforce Inc, Bloomberg reported.

Leave a Comment