In a recent series of interviews on CNBC and Bloomberg TV, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella hinted at the possibility of Sam Altman returning to OpenAI in some capacity. Altman, the former CEO of OpenAI, was dismissed from his position by the AI startup’s board of directors on Friday. Despite Altman’s earlier announcement of joining a newly formed AI research team at Microsoft, Nadella expressed openness to the idea of Altman returning to OpenAI, stating, “Obviously, we want Sam and Greg to have a fantastic home if they’re not going to be in OpenAI.”
Nadella’s comments align with earlier reports from The Verge, suggesting that Altman’s move to Microsoft might not be finalized. The potential return of Altman could hinge on a change of perspective from OpenAI’s board members, particularly in light of recent developments involving OpenAI’s chief scientist, Ilya Sutskever.
Microsoft Advocates Governance Changes at OpenAI
During the interviews, Nadella also emphasized Microsoft’s interest in seeing changes in the governance structure of OpenAI. He highlighted the need for alterations, particularly in terms of investor relations, indicating that Microsoft and other backers should play a more active role in the decision-making processes. Microsoft, having invested over $10 billion in OpenAI, is among the significant stakeholders without representation on the nonprofit board governing OpenAI.
Nadella stated, “It’s clear something has to change around the governance — we’ll have a good dialogue with their board on that, and walk through that as that evolves.” This position underscores Microsoft’s commitment to ensuring a collaborative and transparent framework for decision-making at OpenAI.
OpenAI Faces Internal Strife Following Leadership Changes
Over the weekend, OpenAI’s management and backers initiated the process of vetting candidates to potentially replace the board, anticipating Altman’s potential return. In the midst of this, the board conducted its own CEO search, ultimately appointing Emmett Shear, co-founder of Twitch. However, Shear’s selection proved controversial internally, with employees reportedly expressing discontent by refusing to attend a scheduled all-hands meeting and responding with negative emojis in OpenAI’s Slack channel.
The internal discord at OpenAI has escalated, with more than 700 of the company’s approximately 770 employees signing a letter calling for the resignation of the board and the reinstatement of Sam Altman. The unrest has also attracted attention from external entities, such as Salesforce, which has seized the opportunity to recruit discontented OpenAI researchers by offering matching compensation.