Sam Altman has joined Microsoft to lead a new artificial intelligence project, the tech giant said early Monday, after he was ousted as CEO of OpenAI in a move that sent shockwaves across Silicon Valley.
As rumors swirled that Altman could return after a weekend of boardroom drama, Microsoft announced he would join them instead and Emmett Shear, a co-founder and former CEO of the video streaming platform Twitch, confirmed that he would be the new CEO of OpenAI.
The chairman and CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, announced the Altman hire on X just before 3 a.m. ET, more than 48 hours after OpenAI’s board of directors said they “no longer had confidence” in Altman — a leading figure in the tech industry’s efforts to grapple with the promise and potential dangers of AI.
Microsoft is a major financial backer of OpenAI, one of the world’s hottest startups, and has invested billions since its first funding deal in 2019. Since then OpenAI has become the most visible of a new generation of AI companies — its ChatGPT, a large language model chatbot, is widely used and has become a symbol of everyday AI innovation.
Nadella said Microsoft was still committed to supporting OpenAI, which now has a new leadership team, while confirming that Altman will lead a ‘new advanced AI research team,’ alongside OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman, who was ousted as its president on Friday.
‘We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success,’ Nadella said.
Altman reshared the post, adding: ‘The mission continues.’
OpenAI said it cut ties with him after a review found he was ‘not consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.’
Brockman said on Friday in a post to X that he and Altman were ‘shocked and saddened’ by the board’s decision, but added ‘greater things coming soon.’
CNBC reported on Sunday that some OpenAI investors were pushing for Altman to be brought back, after chief technology officer Mira Murati was named interim CEO.
But Shear confirmed on X early Monday that he would instead be leading OpenAI.
He laid out a plan for his first 30 days, including hiring an independent investigator ‘to dig into the entire process leading up to this point and generate a full report.’
Shear said that ‘OpenAI’s stability and success are too important to allow turmoil to disrupt them like this,’ adding that ‘I have nothing but respect for what Sam and the entire OpenAI team have built.’
OpenAI was this year ranked number 1 in CNBC’s Disruptor 50 list of the most impressive and fastest-growing private companies. The company rose to prominence in 2022 when it released ChatGPT to the public, allowing people to generate complex and detailed responses to simple text questions and prompts.