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Former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman Joins Microsoft’s Ranks

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Sam Altman, the co-founder of OpenAI, will be joining Microsoft to lead a new advanced artificial intelligence research team. This announcement comes after Altman’s attempt to return to OpenAI faced resistance from the board that ousted him, leading to a breakdown in negotiations.

Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella took to X (formerly Twitter) late Sunday to share the news that Altman, along with Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president and co-founder who resigned in protest over Altman’s ouster, will spearhead the new AI research team. Nadella expressed Microsoft’s commitment to its partnership with OpenAI and pledged swift provision of resources to ensure the success of Altman and Brockman in their new roles. Altman, in response, reposted Nadella’s message on X, stating, “The mission continues.”

Following the announcement, Microsoft’s shares saw a more than 2% increase in offhours trading on Monday.

Altman, reportedly shocked by OpenAI’s decision, had been optimistic about his return to the company he co-founded. However, OpenAI’s board had quietly appointed Emmett Shear, former CEO of Twitch, as interim CEO, closing the door on Altman’s potential reinstatement. Shear, in a post on X early Monday, acknowledged the mishandling of the process and communications surrounding Altman’s removal. He pledged to hire an independent investigator to generate a report on the events leading to the upheaval at OpenAI and expressed a commitment to pushing for significant governance changes if necessary.

The weekend’s developments marked the end of a period of uncertainty for OpenAI, which has been a prominent player in the artificial intelligence boom, particularly with the success of its viral chatbot ChatGPT. Altman played a crucial role in establishing OpenAI as one of the most valuable startups in the tech industry and fostering a close relationship with Microsoft, the company’s largest investor with a 49% stake.

Altman was present at OpenAI’s San Francisco office on Sunday, where negotiations took place. Despite efforts by investors and employees to support his return, Altman’s insistence on the resignation of the current board proved to be a significant hurdle. The board, empowered by an unusual corporate structure, resisted pressure from investors, including Microsoft, and venture-capital firm Thrive Capital. Mira Murati, named interim CEO on Friday, had indicated support for Altman’s return but was unable to sway the board’s decision.

The aftermath of Altman’s ouster has left lingering questions about the future of OpenAI, a company that has been instrumental in shaping the landscape of artificial intelligence. The departure of key figures and the uncertainty surrounding the company’s leadership raise concerns about its ability to maintain its prominent position in the rapidly evolving AI industry.