Microsoft secures OpenAI co-founders including Sam Altman, bolstering its AI research division

    Sam Altman

    20th November 2023 – (Washington) Microsoft has made a significant talent acquisition, enlisting OpenAI co-founders Sam Altman and Greg Brockman to head a pioneering artificial intelligence (AI) research team. This news follows a tumultuous weekend at OpenAI, where both Altman and Brockman were ejected, leading to intense discussions around their return that ultimately proved fruitless.

    Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, disclosed this development in an announcement made on X, expressing his eagerness to promptly equip Altman and Brockman, along with their colleagues, with necessary resources for their success at Microsoft.

    Altman, echoing Nadella’s sentiments, tweeted, “the mission continues,” indicating his commitment to AI research and development, despite his recent departure from OpenAI.

    Altman’s sudden dismissal from OpenAI was a consequence of the board’s mounting concerns regarding his dedication to OpenAI’s mission to ensure the development and use of AI that is both safe and beneficial. A source intimately familiar with the board’s decision stated Altman had become “impossible to oversee,” leading to a loss of trust in his leadership.

    An overwhelming number of OpenAI employees sided with Altman throughout this ordeal. Additionally, prominent investors, including Microsoft and leading venture firms such as Thrive Capital and Khosla Ventures, explored the possibility of reinstating him. However, some employees, primarily those focused on AI safety, welcomed Altman’s replacement, per a source close to the company.

    The OpenAI board appointed Emmett Shear as the interim CEO, a move that was promptly followed by Microsoft’s announcement to recruit Altman and Brockman.

    Nadella expressed his anticipation to work with Shear and OpenAI’s new leadership team, solidifying Microsoft’s commitment to its partnership with OpenAI. Microsoft has played a crucial role in the advancement and commercial deployment of AI tools, making significant strides in technology throughout the year.

    Microsoft has pledged over $10bn in capital and infrastructure credits to OpenAI, embedding OpenAI’s potent generative AI tools into its software. Although not all the pledged capital has been disbursed yet, Altman had previously hinted at the possibility of securing additional investment from Microsoft, characterising it as a “great partner” to OpenAI.

    Microsoft’s stock experienced a nearly 2% dip following OpenAI’s announcement of Altman’s dismissal. Microsoft’s recruitment of Altman and Brockman, both of whom enjoy a strong following within OpenAI’s staff, may give the tech giant an advantage over competitors seeking to attract talented AI researchers and engineers from OpenAI.