The next spectacular twist in the cinematic saga around OpenAI could be imminent: After almost all 770 employees of OpenAI have threatened in an open letter with their resignation and an immediate move to Microsoft if the board does not bring back the duo Sam Altman/Greg Brockman, negotiations are underway again. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated in interviews that Altman's return to OpenAI is possible, even though the move to Microsoft has just been announced. At the same time, Nadella has already called for governance changes at partner OpenAI as a precautionary measure so that such a history cannot be repeated.
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"We obviously want Sam and Greg to have a fantastic home if they don't stay at OpenAI," Nadella said in an interview on CNBC. When asked if Altman would return to OpenAI, Nadella added, "That's in the hands of the OpenAI board, management, and employees... [Microsoft] has explicitly decided to partner with OpenAI [and] that obviously depends on whether people at OpenAI stay there or come to Microsoft, so I'm open to both options."
Earlier, Ilya Sutskever, the mastermind behind the CEO change, had expressed regret over the incident on Platform X and announced that he would do everything possible to reunite the company. He also signed the open letter. However, everything is still open and nothing has been decided after the chaos of the past few days.
The Open Letter
The open letter from the employees states:
"Your actions have made it obvious that you are incapable of monitoring OpenAI. We cannot work for or with individuals who lack competence, judgment, and care for our mission and employees. We, the undersigned, could choose to step back from OpenAI and move to Microsoft's newly announced subsidiary, which will be led by Sam Altman and Greg Brockman. Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees at this new subsidiary. We will consider this move immediately, unless all current board members resign, appoint two new independent directors such as Bret Taylor and Will Hurd, and reinstate Sam Altman and Greg Brockman."
State of play: Microsoft is the only winner
Altman and Brockman are the masterminds behind Open AI's commercial success. Her move to Microsoft – along with other colleagues – is a major coup for Satya Nadella, who now wants to quickly equip the new team with the necessary resources to start working. Since Microsoft has access to OpenAI's GPT-4 model, Altman and Brockman can continue seamlessly. The plan to create her own startup would have cost her at least a year of her time.
At the same time, Nadella emphasized that he wants to continue the previous partnership with Open AI. Microsoft was an early investor in Open AI and benefits greatly from the commercialization of the joint AI products. On Friday, when Altman's dismissal was announced, the share price had plummeted. Now it is likely to recover. However, central minds will now migrate to Microsoft with Altman and OpenAI is likely to have a hard time getting investor money again after this presentation. The company is likely to be bought out very quickly for little money or focus on research. The new CEO, Emmett Shear, is also considered a proponent of a very cautious approach to AI.