Microsoft snaps up Sam Altman and former OpenAI colleagues to form its own AI research team

In another twist to the OpenAI saga that raged over the weekend, Microsoft has stepped in and hired Sam Altman and Greg Brockman shortly after OpenAI confirmed that Altman would not be returning, CEO Satya Nadella announced in a statement Post on X.

The pair, along with colleagues, are joining Microsoft “to lead a new advanced AI research team.” Nadella added that Microsoft is “staying.”[s] “We are committed to our partnership with OpenAI,” but the move appears to be a major hedging of that bet. It also means that much of OpenAI’s talent may move to Microsoft, potentially slowing progress on the widely used ChatGPT product.

Altman has remained largely quiet since news of his firing broke Friday, thanking OpenAI colleagues for their support. However, he confirmed his hiring by Microsoft, Spell on X that “the mission continues.” In one Answer Commenting on this post, Nadella said he was “super excited” to have Altman as CEO of the new group. “We have learned a lot over the years about how to give space for founders and innovators to build independent identities and cultures within Microsoft, including GitHub and Mojang Studios,” he added.

The appointment was announced shortly after it was suggested that Altman could return to OpenAI following his sudden dismissal on Friday. This followed an outpouring of support for Altman from OpenAI employees, many of whom shared their sentiments on social media.

Talks between the parties collapsed and OpenAI reportedly subsequently stated that Altman (and co-founder Greg Brockman) would not be returning. Instead, Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear has reportedly been named OpenAI’s new CEO.

The story is likely far from over, as Microsoft’s confirmation of Altman’s firing and subsequent hiring raises numerous questions. Microsoft has invested $13 billion and owns a 49 percent stake in OpenAI’s for-profit segment and recently unveiled its Copilot AI assistant based on OpenAI’s technology.

However, OpenAI has a strange “capped profit” corporate structure with both a for-profit and a nonprofit organization, which impacts Microsoft’s investments. And despite Nadella’s words, the partnership with OpenAI is undoubtedly compromised by the fact that Microsoft has its own AI research team – especially since it is led by OpenAI’s former CEO. In all of this, further developments can be expected.

Updated November 20, 2023 at 8:42 a.m. ET: OpenAI co-founder, board member and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever released a statement on the recent developments: “I deeply regret my involvement in the board’s actions. I never intended to harm OpenAI. I love everything we’ve built together, and I will.” “I’m doing everything I can to bring the company back together,” he said wrote on X.