Former OpenAI Boss Sam Altman Joins Microsoft

By Ben McCarthy

This weekend has felt almost like the build-up to another succession finale, but one that could have far-reaching consequences across the tech world.

Since Friday, we have seen Sam Altman, CEO and co-founder of OpenAI, get fired by the board and then enter talks to be reinstated, only for Emmett Shear, former Twitch CEO and co-founder to be installed as CEO on Sunday. Come Monday morning, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has announced via X (formerly Twitter) that Sam Altman will be joining Microsoft. 

Update November 22, 10:50 GMT: After fierce negotiations for a couple of days, Sam Altman has regained his position as CEO of OpenAI. Altman will serve the company with a newly appointed board, including former Salesforce Co-CEO Bret Taylor as chair.

Update November 20, 15:25 GMT: More than 500 staff members at OpenAI have called for the board of the company to resign, and for the reinstatement of Altman. This includes OpenAI board member and co-founder, Ilya Sutskever, who tweeted “I deeply regret my participation in the board’s actions.”

Sam Altman was fired on Friday November 17, as the result of the OpenAI board no longer having confidence in his ability to continue leading OpenAI. A review conducted by the board “concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.” It seems like both Altman and Microsoft, OpenAI’s biggest backer, were blindsided by this announcement.

The co-founder of OpenAI was later joined by Greg Brockman, president of OpenAI, who later resigned after hearing the news. This was followed by the resignations of three other senior OpenAI researchers.

Credit: Justin Sullivan – Getty Images

On Sunday, it was announced that Sam Altman was in discussion with OpenAI about making a return, but The Verge noted that he was “ambivalent” about coming back, and would want significant governance changes. This assumes that he is pointing squarely at the board, where there seems to have been a power struggle against Altman and Ilya Sutskever, the company’s chief researcher. 

But in what is perhaps a not-so-surprising announcement, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, announced this morning that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, together with colleagues of OpenAI, will be joining Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team. 

Although it’s too early to say, this weekend’s activities could have far-reaching implications on the world of AI. Where does this leave OpenAI, and have Microsoft just landed the golden goose

There are hundreds of other unanswered questions, but I have a feeling there will be some succession-esque news to follow soon…

The Author

Ben McCarthy

Ben is the Founder of Salesforce Ben. He also works as a Non-Exec Director & Advisor for various companies within the Salesforce Ecosystem.

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