Even though it seemed that former OpenAI CEO Sam Altman would lead a new AI research division at Microsoft, he might still get his old job back. According to Bloomberg, the OpenAI board — which caused chaos at the company when it fired Altman on Friday — has reopened discussions with the former chief executive regarding his possible reinstatement.
The talks are said to involve board member (and Quora CEO) Adam D’Angelo as well as OpenAI investors, some of whom have been pushing for Altman’s return. According to the report, board members “largely refused to engage” with Altman until Monday, so these latest talks are said to be a significant development.
Meanwhile, Kevin Scott, Microsoft’s chief technology officer, said that his company will match the compensation OpenAI workers are currently receiving if they jump ship. Most of the company’s workers have threatened to walk unless the OpenAI board resigns and reinstates Altman and former president Greg Brockman (who resigned in protest over the board booting out Altman). They warned the board on Monday that Microsoft is willing to hire them too, and Scott has confirmed that.
“To my partners at OpenAI: We have seen your petition and appreciate your desire potentially to join Sam Altman at Microsoft’s new AI Research Lab,” Scott wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Know that if needed, you have a role at Microsoft that matches your compensation and advances our collective mission.”
To my partners at OpenAI: We have seen your petition and appreciate your desire potentially to join Sam Altman at Microsoft’s new AI Research Lab. Know that if needed, you have a role at Microsoft that matches your compensation and advances our collective mission.
— Kevin Scott (@kevin_scott) November 21, 2023
It’s unclear whether Scott’s offer is contingent on Altman officially joining Microsoft, as CNBC notes. In any case, OpenAI workers may not have too much trouble finding a new job if they resign, as many tech companies are battling to hire AI experts. For instance, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said that any OpenAI researcher who has quit will receive matching salary and equity if they join his company.
Meanwhile, in interviews he gave after saying Altman and Brockman were joining his company on Monday, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reiterated that he wants to keep working with OpenAI. However, he noted “that depends on the people of OpenAI staying there or coming to Microsoft. So I’m open to both options, but one thing I will not do is stop innovating.” Nadella also said that “At this point, I think it’s very clear that something has to change around the governance” at the ChatGPT operator.
After Altman’s sudden firing, he and Brockman spent the weekend in crunch talks with the OpenAI board in an effort to get their jobs back. Those initial talks proved unsuccessful, and the board has appointed former Twitch chief executive Emmett Shear as interim CEO.
The OpenAI board has declined to share the exact reasoning for its decision to fire Altman, though it claimed that he had not been “consistently candid in his communications with the board, hindering its ability to exercise its responsibilities.” After he took the reins, Shear said he’d bring in an independent investigator “to dig into the entire process leading up to this point and generate a full report.”