Sam Altman, sacked OpenAI CEO, to join Microsoft. ChatGPT-maker row explained

Sam Altman, the sacked OpenAI chief executive officer (CEO), is joining Microsoft Corp. to lead its artificial intelligence effort, Satya Nadella, the CEO of the US software firm, confirmed on Monday. Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear, meanwhile, confirmed his appointment as OpenAI’s new CEO on Monday, days after the ChatGPT-maker fired Altman.

Ousted OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.(AFP)

Greg Brockman, who quit the board around the same time, will also join Microsoft, a major OpenAI backer. Microsoft remains committed to the relationship and is looking forward to working with the startup’s new CEO, Emmett Shear, Nadella said in a post early on Monday.

The developments come less than a year after OpenAI launched the generative AI frenzy with the launch of viral chatbot ChatGPT and bagged Microsoft as an investor, among other big names.

Sam Altman’s tumultuous weekend:

On November 17: OpenAI board fired CEO, co-founder Sam Altman and president Greg Brockman quit after being removed from the board. The company named Mira Murati as interim CEO on November 18.

Altman’s firing was over a “breakdown in communication between Sam and the board”, and not “malfeasance”, chief operating officer (COO) Brad Lightcap said in an internal memo.

On November 18: Early investor Khosla Ventures said it wanted Altman back at OpenAI, “but will back him in whatever he does next”.

On November 18: Some employees contemplated quitting if Altman was not restored as CEO by the end of the weekend, while others expressed support for joining his new venture, people familiar with the matter said.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reached out to Altman following the firing to offer him support in his next steps, people with knowledge of the situation told Bloomberg.

Microsoft is OpenAI’s largest investor with a stake worth more than $10 billion. Nadella succeeded Steve Ballmer as Microsoft CEO in 2014.

On November 19: Altman discussed a possible return to the company, and considered launching a new AI startup. The board of ChatGPT creator OpenAI rejected pressure from Microsoft and other major investors to reverse its stunning decision to fire Altman, US media reported.

On November 20: Satya Nadella said the Windows maker has hired Altman, Brockman and their colleagues will lead a new advanced AI research team.

On November 20: OpenAI appointed former Twitch boss Emmett Shear as interim CEO.

Why was Sam Altman sacked as OpenAI CEO?

The board of OpenAI – consisting of OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo, technology entrepreneur Tasha McCauley, and Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology’s Helen Toner – sacked Altman after a review found that he was “not consistently candid in his communications” with the board. “The board no longer has confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI,” a statement by the artificial intelligence company said.

The statement added that the young CEO’s behaviour was “hindering” the board’s ability to exercise its responsibilities.

“OpenAI was deliberately structured to advance our mission: to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all humanity. The board remains fully committed to serving this mission. We are grateful for Sam’s many contributions to the founding and growth of OpenAI,” the company wrote in its blog post.

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