Sam Altman joins Microsoft, OpenAI hires ex-Twitch boss Emmett Shear as new CEO

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The ongoing leadership drama at the forefront of the world’s most renowned AI company took a new twist this morning as OpenAI announced the appointment of the former head of Twitch as its new CEO. Meanwhile, the ousted executive Sam Altman will transition to head an AI research team at leading investor Microsoft.

Altman’s abrupt removal as OpenAI CEO on Friday, accompanied by the board’s statement expressing a lack of confidence in his leadership abilities, sent shockwaves through the tech industry and prompted a series of resignations from the company.

Altman attended crucial discussions at OpenAI’s San Francisco headquarters on Sunday, aiming to be reinstated as chief executive. The meeting, reportedly mediated by Satya Nadella, CEO of lead investor Microsoft, suggested Altman’s potential return hinged on the removal of existing board members who had voted for his termination.

However, these negotiations seem to have collapsed, as Nadella announced this morning that Altman would instead be joining Microsoft, while the former head of streaming service Twitch, Emmett Shear, would take over as OpenAI’s new CEO.

Some speculate that tensions arose over OpenAI’s shift toward a more profit-driven approach, leading to a perceived divide at senior levels within the company. Initially founded as a non-profit, OpenAI underwent restructuring to include a for-profit subsidiary governed by the board members of its non-profit parent.

Internal disagreements over the company’s AI safety policies have also been reported, with concerns raised about safety considerations. The Wall Street Journal mentioned that OpenAI’s chief scientist and co-founder, Ilya Sutskever, had expressed worries about the long-term safety of OpenAI’s products and advocated for greater alignment with human values.

Shear refuted claims that Altman was ousted from OpenAI’s board due to safety concerns. Instead, he stated his intention to initiate an independent investigation into the circumstances leading to Altman’s departure.

“It’s clear that the process and communications around Sam’s removal has been handled very badly, which has seriously damaged our trust,” Shear said.

“OpenAI’s stability and success are too important to allow turmoil to disrupt them like this. I will drive changes in the organisation — up to and including pushing strongly for significant governance changes if necessary.”