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Microsoft CEO says OpenAI governance needs to change no matter where Sam Altman ends up

The comments come after the OpenAI board?kicked off days of drama by dismissing?co-founder Sam Altman as CEO.
Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella delivers the keynote address at Build, the company's annual conference for software developers, in Seattle on May 6, 2019.Elaine Thompson / AP file
/ Source: CNBC.com

Microsoft?CEO Satya Nadella told CNBC’s Jon Fortt on Monday that the governance structure of OpenAI needs to change, three days after?the sudden firing?CEO Sam Altman.

“At this point, I think it’s very clear that something has to change around the governance,” Nadella said. He added that Microsoft would have “a good dialogue with their board on that.”

In his first press interview since Altman’s ouster, Nadella dismissed concerns of long-term damage at OpenAI and said that the critical artificial intelligence research continues as does the partnership with Microsoft. But his comments didn’t clear up confusion surrounding where Altman and fellow OpenAI co-founder Greg Brockman, who was the company’s chairman, will ultimately end up.

Early Monday morning Nadella said that Altman, Brockman and their colleagues?would join Microsoft?as part of a new AI research group. That post followed news that ex-Twitch CEO Emmett Shear had been named OpenAI interim head as Altman looked to depart. Over the course of Monday, it became less evident that Altman and Brockman would actually be joining Microsoft.

Hundreds of OpenAI employees signed?a letter?to the company’s board demanding that they resign or else the staffers may choose to leave and join their former boss at Microsoft.

Nadella said it’s the choice of OpenAI employees whether they stay in their current roles or move to Microsoft, adding that his company has what it needs to keep innovating on its own.

“I’m open to both options,” he said.

The rapid reinstatement of Altman began to look like a possibility on Saturday as news surfaced that a group of prominent investors, including Microsoft, Tiger Global, Thrive Capital and Sequoia Capital were working to reverse the board’s decision from a day earlier. None of those firms had board seats, and they were caught unaware by the decision.

In a?post on X?late Saturday night, Altman wrote, “i love the openai team so much.” Brockman, who quit the company after the board removed him as chairman alongside the ouster of Altman, reposted the comment with a heart symbol. Other OpenAI employees did the same.

Nadella told Fortt that Microsoft respects OpenAI’s nonprofit roots and shares its belief that AI needs to be developed and rolled out in a safe manner.

“We want to make sure that we’re dealing with not only the benefits of technology, but the unintended consequences of the technology from day one, as opposed to waiting for things to happen,” Nadella said.

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