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OpenAI closes ‘Sam Altman’ chapter as tech maverick joins Microsoft

IFM_Sam Altman
Emmett Shear, co-founder of video streaming site Twitch, will take over as Sam Altman's successor

Sam Altman, the poster boy of the Generative AI and ChatGPT, whose sudden firing on November 17 by the OpenAI board of directors sent the shock waves across the tech industry, will not return as CEO of the tech company, reports confirmed.

Emmett Shear, co-founder of video streaming site Twitch, will take over as OpenAI’s new CEO, the Information report said, citing co-founder and board director Ilya Sutskever.

Talking about Altman, he and Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s former president, will now be joining Microsoft and lead a new advanced AI research team.

The move, announced by the tech giant’s boss Satya Nadella, may prove to be an ominous one for the OpenAI, analysts predicted.

Nadella also said that Microsoft, a key investor in OpenAI, will be getting to know Emmett Shear and the tech venture’s new leadership team.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Nadella remarked, “We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners. We look forward to getting to know Shear and OAI’s new leadership team and working with them.”

“And we’re extremely excited to share the news that Sam Altman and Greg Brockman, together with colleagues, will be joining Microsoft to lead a new advanced AI research team. We look forward to moving quickly to provide them with the resources needed for their success,” the Microsoft boss added further.

The Tumultuous Few Days

Altman, whose mission was to spearhead efforts to transform OpenAI from a non-profit into a commercially viable business, faced the board of director’s heat for not being ‘candid in his conversations’.

As per the reports, Altman clashed with the board members, amid the latter’s concern about the OpenAI CEO was moving too quickly, “without sufficient concern to the safety implications of a technology that, left unchecked, could create content capable of harming the public”.

Immediately after Altman’s removal, OpenAI Chief Operating Officer Brad Lightcap said that safety was not the primary reason behind the board’s decision, while citing the “breakdown in communications” as the reason behind the move.

Reports also emerged about OpenAI’s interim CEO Mira Murati bringing back Sam Altman and the venture’s former President Greg Brockman in a ‘yet to be finalized capacity’.

On November 20, Altman posted a picture on his X account, where he was seen posing with a picture of guest card at the OpenAI offices, claiming ‘first and last time I ever wear one of these.’

In fact, Altman and Brockman joined executives at the OpenAI’s San Francisco headquarters after Murati told the staff about her inviting the maverick tech leader.

Altman’s sacking also worried the OpenAI staffers about the decision potentially affecting the upcoming USD 86 billion worth share sale. In fact, one of Altman’s conditions for returning to the tech company was the removal of the existing board members.

It was said that if Altman returns as the CEO, Microsoft, which owns a 49% stake in OpenAI, would likely to take up a role on the board. Reports also claimed about Microsoft and Nadella being blindsided by the OpenAI’s sudden leadership change.

Nadella also reportedly offered Altman his full support in his bid to return to the company and in any of his future endeavors. However, Emmett Shear’s appointment poured cold water on the above-mentioned ‘possibilities’.

Microsoft currently uses OpenAI’s solutions like Bing Chat and Windows Copilot for improving its products.

Is Altman Working On A New Venture?

Meanwhile, Altman is now working on a new artificial intelligence venture, reports suggested.

Brockman too will be joining the effort. It is worth mentioning that prominent OpenAI researchers including Szymon Sidor, have quit the company over the CEO change.

On September 2023, the Information reported about Altman and Apple’s former design chief Jony Ive discussing building a new AI hardware device, with SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son being involved in the conversation. It has to be seen now how the project shapes, as OpenAI have already moved beyond the Altman era.

Will the project go ahead? We have to wait and watch.

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