Sam Altman's move to Microsoft has raised a fuss, fired last weekend from OpenAI, the company that owns Chat GPT, which he himself had helped found.
The Redmond giant hired him and gave him the leadership of an ad hoc team for artificial intelligence research. Altman will be able to count not only on the help of OpenAI's other co-founder, former chairman Greg Brockman, who was also dismissed from the company and joined Microsoft, but also - potentially - hundreds of the company's employees.
More than 550 - some say as many as 700 - out of a total of 770 have in fact signed an open letter threatening to resign if the board of directors does not leave and Altman and Brockman are not reinstated.
Moreover, the two have been followed in the last few hours by three other highly experienced researchers, a hemorrhage of talent that has prompted OpenAI staff to openly take a stand against the board, first with a series of retweets of messages from Altman and then with the letter to the board of directors that is accused of "jeopardizing all the work done" and "clearly not being able to manage OpenAI".
"We are unable to work for and with people who lack expertise, judgment, and focus on our mission": With the removal of Altman and Brockman "your conduct clearly shows that you do not have the competence to lead OpenAI. Microsoft has assured us that there are positions for all OpenAI employees in the new division should we decide to join it," the statement reads.
Among the signatories are fellow co-founder and board member Ilya Sutskever, who informed Altman of his firing, but also Mira Murati, who was appointed interim CEO on Friday after Altman's firing and already replaced by Emmet Shear, the co-founder of the streaming service Twitch.
Sam Altman with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
It's not just employees. Some OpenAI investors are also exploring the possibility of taking legal action against the company's board of directors. They fear that the hundreds of millions invested in OpenAI could suffer catastrophic losses as a result of what appears to be a potential collapse of the startup.
For this reason, Altman's departure immediately kicked off attempts to reinstate him. When he posted the post on X with the caption, "I loved my time at OpenAi," the company's biggest investors moved to reverse the decision.
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, OpenAI's largest investor with a 49% stake, led the mediation efforts that were complicated by Altman's insistence that OpenAI's board be removed as a precondition for his return. But things have been different, with Twich's co-founder the company's new CEO, and Microsoft's Altman and Brockman rubbing their hands with the stock setting a new record high on Wall Street since their arrival.
By the way, the real reasons for the dismissal of Altman, who was also the face of the artificial intelligence industry, are still unclear.
"Sam's behavior and lack of transparency in interactions with the board put at risk the board's ability to effectively oversee the company as required" by his tenure, the company's board of directors said in an email.
Announcing the move to Microsoft of Altman and Brockman, both co-founders of OpenAI, "along with other colleagues to lead a new AI research team," was CEO Satya Nadella, on X.
"The mission continues," reacted Sam Altman, who at 38 is considered a Silicon Valley star.
"We're going to build something new and it's going to be incredible," added Greg Brockman on X, announcing the recruitment of several other key OpenAI employees for this new project within Microsoft, whose names he mentions.
"We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and are confident in the roadmap we have set for our product," added Nadella, whose company has invested several billion dollars in the computing technologies needed for OpenAI and has integrated this technology into its own products, such as the Bing search engine.
On the other front, new OpenAI CEO Emmett Shear told X that his decision to accept the job was made "in a matter of hours," describing it as "the opportunity of a lifetime."
"I accepted this position because I believe OpenAI is one of the most important companies in existence today. When the Board informed me of the situation and asked me to take on this role, I did not take the decision lightly," he commented.
Shear, a former Microsoft intern who is not particularly well-liked, plans to launch an independent investigation within 30 days to shed light on Sam Altman's firing and the upheaval within the start-up.
In the coming days, it will hire an "investigator to delve into the entire process leading up to this point, who will present a full report" on the matter. In the X post where he explained the future actions he plans to take, the new CEO said that the process and communications related to Altman's removal were handled "very poorly, which seriously damaged trust in us."
Elon Musk's comment
"It looks like http://Instability.AI is available yet." So in a tweet - with a pun on OpenAI - Elon Musk jokes heavily about the crisis that what seemed to be one of the jewels of artificial intelligence is going through and which he himself helped found in 2015 together with a group of entrepreneurs and investors including Sam Altman and Greg Brockman. In 2018, Musk left the project after falling out with the board.