Sacked OpenAI boss Sam Altman to join Microsoft

Sacked OpenAI boss Sam Altman to join Microsoft

SAM Altman is joining Microsoft, the tech giant has announced, ending speculation he might return to OpenAI just 48 hours after his chaotic ousting, reports the BBC.

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that Mr Altman would be joining Microsoft to lead "a new advanced AI research team".

Meanwhile, ex-Twitch CEO Emmett Shear will become OpenAI's new interim boss.

Writing on X, he called the job a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity".

But he added the way Mr Altman had been sacked was "handled very badly" and "seriously damaged our trust".

And in a dramatic reversal, one of the board members involved in removing Mr Altman, Ilya Sutskever, said on X that he had made a mistake.

"Now 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", he posted.

Mr Altman, 38, helped launch the firm - best known for creating the popular ChatGPT bot - and has become one of the most influential figures in the fast-growing generative artificial intelligence (AI) space.

So when the board dismissed him on Friday, after saying it had lost confidence in him, it sent shockwaves through the industry, and set in train a chaotic series of events.

A number of Silicon Valley bosses offered support, including former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt who called Mr Altman "a hero of mine", and there was a backlash from investors, prompting speculation that Mr Altman might even be reinstated.

Instead, Mr Altman is joining Microsoft which has invested billions in the ChatGPT maker.

Responding to the post by Microsoft boss Mr Nadella confirming his new job, Mr Altman posted "the mission continues".

'Embarrassing circus'

Dan Ives of investment firm Wedbush Securities says Microsoft has ended up being strengthened - but the episode reflected badly on OpenAI.

They were "at the kid's poker table and thought they won until Nadella and Microsoft took this all over in a World Series of Poker move for the ages", he wrote.

"The embarrassing circus show over the weekend at OpenAI was finally taken over by the adults in the room."

Reports this weekend suggested Mr Altman's sacking had angered current and former employees who were worried it might affect an upcoming $86bn (£69bn) share sale.

A number - including senior executives - have posted the same message on X, which reads "OpenAI is nothing without its people".

OpenAI's new boss Emmett Shear is the former head and co-founder of video streaming service Twitch. A memo to OpenAI's staff said he had a "unique mix of skills, expertise and relationships that will drive OpenAI forward".

In spite of now being at the helm of one of the world's most powerful AI companies - and being a self-described "techno-optimist" - Mr Shear has expressed concerns about what he sees as the potential existential threat posed by the technology.

"It's like someone invented a way to make 10x [ten times] more powerful fusion bombs out of sand and bleach, that anyone could do at home", he told the Logan Bartlett Show podcast in June.

The exact reasons for Mr Altman's sacking by the board remain unclear.

On Friday, when OpenAI announced it was firing Mr Altman, it accused him of not being "consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities" - but did not specify what he is alleged to have not been candid about.

Mr Shear has addressed some of the speculation on the subject.

"The board did *not* remove Sam over any specific disagreement on safety, their reasoning was completely different from that. I'm not crazy enough to take this job without board support for commercializing our awesome models", he wrote on X.

The mention of safety could suggest that this was not a disagreement about the management of the risks AI may pose, though the words are open to interpretation.

But Mr Shear committed to hiring an independent investigator "to dig into the entire process".