Will Sam Altman move to Microsoft or return to OpenAI? The answer is anything but certain. Altman, along with co-founder Greg Brockman, is reportedly still open to returning to OpenAI if certain board members who played a role in his ouster step down. This development comes amidst a turbulent situation within the company, with a threatened mass exodus of employees, and board member and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, applying pressure on the board for change.
According to multiple sources cited in an article by The Verge, the announcement of Altman’s hiring by Microsoft was more of a temporary measure, a “holding pattern,” as the crisis at OpenAI continues to unfold.
Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, seemed to confirm this in a Bloomberg interview on Monday night where, when asked if Altman was joining Microsoft or returning to OpenAI, Nadella would only say,“that is for the OpenAI board and management and employees to choose.”
Nadella claimed that he was happy with either situation and repeatedly emphasized that the important thing was that Microsoft would continue to work with Sam Altman and his team. He repeated Altman’s name multiple times in the interview and for good reason. Microsoft’s share price which dropped when Altman was fired, surged back to new highs when Nadella announced Altman was moving to Microsoft. It’s clear that, at least in the short term, Microsoft’s relationship with Altman has a big impact on investors and Microsoft’s share price.
Nadella did confirm that Microsoft would be demanding some changes in its relationship with OpenAI. He noted, that “suprises are bad” and further that “it’s clear something has to change around the governance — we will have a good dialogue with their board on that, and walk through that as that evolves.”
If there is any truth to the rumours that the board had proposed a merger with competitor Anthropic over the weekend, Nadella has a right to be concerned. Microsoft has invested well over ten billion dollars in OpenAI. Anthropic has received large investments from AWS and Google.
Nadella’s understated demand is not the only call for changes to the board and the governance of the company. Ilya Sutskever, initially a key figure in Altman’s removal, has expressed regret at his role in the firing and is now supporting the call for the board’s resignation and Altman’s reinstatement.
The new CEO, Emmett Shear, is facing his own challenges. He reportedly attempted to organize and “all hands” meeting of employees but received “eff you” emojis from employees who boycotted the meeting.
The drama continues.