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Chaos at OpenAI as CEO Altman abruptly fired, then hired by Microsoft

By Jake Beardslee · November 20, 2023

In brief…

  • The move came after disagreements at OpenAI over the pace of developing and commercializing AI
  • Altman only learned of his firing minutes before it was announced publicly
  • Microsoft and OpenAI have a multibillion-dollar partnership to deploy ChatGPT-like technology
  • Altman and Brockman will lead an advanced AI research team at Microsoft
After a chaotic weekend that saw OpenAI CEO Sam Altman suddenly fired on Friday, Microsoft has hired Altman and president Greg Brockman to lead an advanced artificial intelligence research team, following their abrupt departures from the ChatGPT maker.  TechCrunch/Wikimedia

In a dramatic shakeup in the artificial intelligence world, Microsoft has hired former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and president Greg Brockman to lead a new advanced AI research team, after the two abruptly left the ChatGPT maker following Altman’s sudden ouster on Friday.

Altman’s hiring by Microsoft was announced by CEO Satya Nadella on X. Nadella said he was “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.”

The news came after a chaotic weekend at OpenAI, which saw Altman fired as CEO on Friday with little notice, followed by frenzied speculation that the board was considering rehiring him.

According to OpenAI board member Greg Brockman, Altman only found out “minutes” before his firing was announced publicly. Brockman suggested the move was driven by disagreement between Altman and OpenAI’s research division over the pace of developing AI products.

Sources told journalist Kara Swisher that tension emerged between Altman, who wanted to commercialize AI tools quickly, and board members who favored a more cautious approach.

Emmett Shear, former CEO of Amazon’s Twitch, was named as OpenAI’s new interim CEO over the weekend. In a X post, Shear acknowledged the company had “seriously damaged our trust” and said an independent investigation would be conducted into Altman’s firing.

Microsoft had not been informed about Altman’s dismissal until just before it was announced publicly. The shakeup comes amid a multibillion-dollar partnership between Microsoft and OpenAI to deploy ChatGPT-like technology across Microsoft products.

With Altman and Brockman’s hiring, Microsoft is bringing in-house two of the key architects behind ChatGPT, aiming to turbocharge its own AI capabilities.