Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said on Monday in an interview with CNBC’s Jon Fortt that OpenAI’s governance structure required a change, following the abrupt dismissal of CEO Sam Altman three days earlier.
“Something has to change around the governance, that’s very clear,” Nadella said. He also said that Microsoft would engage in “a good dialogue with their board on that.”
Nadella, in his first press interview since the removal of Altman, downplayed the possibility of long-term damage at OpenAI and said that the vital artificial intelligence research and the partnership with Microsoft were ongoing. However, his comments did not clarify the future of Altman and OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman, who was the company’s chairman.
Nadella announced early Monday morning that Altman, Brockman and their colleagues would join Microsoft as a new AI research group. This announcement came after the news that former Twitch CEO Emmett Shear had taken over as OpenAI’s interim head as Altman was leaving. However, throughout Monday, it became unclear whether Altman and Brockman would actually move to Microsoft.
Hundreds of OpenAI employees wrote a letter to the company’s board, asking them to resign or face the risk of losing the staff to Microsoft, where their former leader was heading.
Nadella said that it was up to OpenAI employees to decide whether they wanted to stay or join Microsoft, and that his company had the resources to continue innovating independently.
“I’m open to both options,” he said.
The possibility of Altman’s quick return emerged on Saturday as reports indicated that a group of prominent investors, including Microsoft, Tiger Global, Thrive Capital and Sequoia Capital, were trying to undo the board’s decision from the previous day. None of those firms had board representation, and they were unaware of the decision.
Altman wrote on X late Saturday night, “i love the openai team so much.” Brockman, who resigned from the company after the board ousted him as chairman along with Altman, shared the comment with a heart symbol. Other OpenAI employees followed suit.
Nadella told Fortt that Microsoft respected OpenAI’s nonprofit origins and agreed with its vision that AI should be developed and deployed safely.
“We want to make sure that we’re dealing with both the benefits and the unintended consequences of the technology from day one, rather than waiting for things to happen,” Nadella said.