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Sam Altman hired by Microsoft to lead AI research after ouster from OpenAI

After a whirlwind weekend, Microsoft has hired the OpenAI founder as well as former OpenAI president Greg Brockman and other colleagues.

Sam Altman hired by Microsoft to lead AI research after ouster from OpenAI
[Source photo: PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images]

It’s been a whirlwind weekend at OpenAI after the company’s board of directors fired founder Sam Altman on November 17. Now, after apparent failed attempts on Sunday to get Altman rehired and instead, OpenAI’s board hired a new CEO, Emmett Shear, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has announced that both Sam Altman and former OpenAI president Greg Brockman have been hired to lead Microsoft’s new advanced AI research team.

No one on Friday could have guessed that by Monday Sam Altman would be a direct hire at Microsoft, but the outcome makes a lot of sense. Microsoft has invested an estimated $13 billion into OpenAi, and OpenAI’s technology is baked into many of Microsoft’s flagship products now. Microsoft was reportedly deeply unhappy with Altman’s firing and reportedly lobbied hard to get him hired back by the company in the last 48 hours.

Among Microsoft’s fears of an OpenAI without Altman was that the loss would cause Microsoft stock to tank upon market opening on Monday morning. As of the time of this writing, though, Microsoft stock (MSFT) is up 2.58% to $379.40 per share in pre-market trading, suggesting investors are happy with the news of Microsoft hiring Altman and Brockman.

But more than a stock price hit were fears that Altman would likely start his own OpenAI competitor and take many of OpenAI’s employees, who were loyal to him and disagreed with his ouster, with him. That would have left OpenAI short on critical talent while also facing a fierce new competitor, and Microsoft would have invested billions in a company that now was a shell of its former self, talent-wise.

By hiring Altman and Brockman, “together with [OpenAI] colleagues,” Nadella has essentially worked out the best outcome for Microsoft in this chaotic mess. Nadella has confirmed that Microsoft is “committed to our partnership with OpenAI” and thus will continue to work with the company and use its technology, while also launching its own, new “advanced AI research team” with Altman and Brockman at the reins.

In other words, as of this morning, Microsoft will continue to have access to all the AI talent that its OpenAI partnership originally enabled, but some of that talent now works directly for Microsoft instead of OpenAI.

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Michael Grothaus is a novelist, journalist, and former screenwriter. His debut novel EPIPHANY JONES is out now from Orenda Books. You can read more about him at MichaelGrothaus.com More

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