Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Monday he was open to the prospect of Sam Altman returning to OpenAI after his dramatic ouster from the high-profile company last week, as the fallout from his abrupt removal continues.
The tech giant had previously announced that it hired Altman and former OpenAI president Greg Brockman to lead a new artificial intelligence research team there, and also appeared willing to hire other OpenAI employees who choose to follow their former boss out of the company. Brockman resigned as CEO of OpenAI in protest of Altman’s firing.
But in an interview with CNBCNadella seemed willing to accept a scenario in which Altman would return to his old job, saying it would be up to the people at OpenAI whether they stay there or move to Microsoft.
“I’m open to both options,” he said.
Microsoft is a major investor in OpenAI, the company behind the AI text chatbot ChatGPT.
Altman, according to sources cited by The Verge, would like to return to OpenAI, but only on the condition that all current board members resign. He was removed as CEO by the board on Friday said it “no longer has confidence in its ability to continue to lead OpenAI.”
“Mr. “Altman’s departure follows an advisory review process by the board, which concluded that he was not consistently candid in his communications with the board, which prevented him from fulfilling his responsibilities,” the board said in a statement First, Mira Murati, the company’s chief technology officer, was named interim CEO.
The board has not yet released any further information about its decision.
While Altman and the board negotiated over the weekend, the company’s leadership decided against his return and appointed a new interim CEO, Emmett Shear, who promised to get to the bottom of Altman’s firing.
Altman’s ouster was met with backlash from an overwhelming majority of OpenAI employees, including board member and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, who reportedly initiated Altman’s ouster. The employees wrote a letter threatening to resign – pointing out that Microsoft had offered to hire them all – unless the current board members left the company.
In a post on social mediaAltman said he and Nadella remain focused on the success of his former company.
“Satya and my top priority remains ensuring openai continues to thrive,” Altman wrote on Monday.
“We are committed to providing full business continuity to our partners and customers,” he added. “The partnership between OpenAI and Microsoft makes this very feasible.”
Asked whether Microsoft needs a seat on OpenAI’s board, Nadella told CNBC that he expects the current structure to evolve.
“I think it’s very, very clear that something needs to change in terms of governance,” Nadella said.
He added: “We will have a good dialogue with their board about this.”