Satya Nadella: Microsoft will never again get blindsided by OpenAI board if Sam Altman returns

The OpenAI saga appears to be in a holding pattern, at least for the moment, as hundreds of employees threaten leave en masse if the board doesn’t resign and reinstate Sam Altman as CEO of the artificial intelligence powerhouse.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made it clear in interviews Monday that the company wouldn’t be opposed to Altman returning to OpenAI, with changes to the board, including provisions to keep Microsoft from being surprised in the manner it was on Friday, learning of Altman’s ouster minutes before the rest of the world.

“One thing, I’ll be very, very clear, is we’re never going to get back into a situation where we get surprised like this, ever again. … That’s done,” Nadella said on a joint episode of the Pivot and On with Kara Swisher podcasts.

He added that Microsoft will be more resolute in ensuring that its customers won’t be surprised, and will “definitely take care of all other governance issues and anything like that.”

As of Tuesday morning, 95% of OpenAI’s employees had signed the petition saying that they “may choose to resign from OpenAI and join the newly announced Microsoft subsidiary run by Sam Altman and Greg Brockman.”

Nadella announced late Sunday, after Altman’s negotiations with OpenAI fell through, that Altman, Brockman and others from OpenAI would be joining the Redmond company to form a new advanced AI research team.

Since then, it has become clear that the announcement was not as much a definitive plan as it was about Microsoft securing its relationship with Altman, while also maintaining its partnership with OpenAI, in an attempt to reassure Wall Street that it will be in a good position no matter the outcome.

Bloomberg News reported Tuesday that Altman and OpenAI have reopened negotiations.

“We really want to partner with OpenAI, and we want to partner with Sam, and so irrespective of where Sam is, he’s working with Microsoft,” Nadella said in an interview with Emily Chang on Bloomberg TV. “That was the case on Friday. That’s the case today, and I absolutely believe that will be the case tomorrow.”

Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott, a key figure in the company’s AI initiatives, reassured OpenAI employees: “Know that if needed, you have a role at Microsoft that matches your compensation and advances our collective mission.”

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