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Microsoft CEO doesn’t dismiss possibility of Sam Altman returning to OpenAI

By Samantha Delouya, CNN

(CNN) — Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella hinted on Monday that he was still open to Sam Altman rejoining OpenAI – despite an announcement earlier in the day that Altman would join Microsoft’s artificial intelligence innovation division.

Nadella said he was “open to both options” when asked in a Monday CNBC interview whether Altman would actually join Microsoft.

“Look, that is for the OpenAI board and management and the employees to choose,” Nadella said. “We chose to explicitly partner with OpenAI and we want to continue to do so, and obviously, that depends on the people of OpenAI staying there or coming to Microsoft.”

ChatGPT creator OpenAI was thrown into turmoil on Friday when the board abruptly fired Altman. With a $13 billion investment in OpenAI, Microsoft is one of the company’s biggest backers.

The firing set off a weekend of chaos: OpenAI’s president, Greg Brockman, resigned, and hundreds of OpenAI employees threatened to quit over Altman’s firing. The company appointed an interim CEO, Mira Murati, as well.

On Monday, OpenAI announced a new interim CEO, Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear – and Microsoft said it would hire Altman. Microsoft’s stock closed at an all-time high after the announcement.

Yet in a fluid leadership situation at OpenAI, reports soon emerged that Altman was mulling a return to the company.

Nadella reiterated Microsoft’s commitment to OpenAI and to Altman “irrespective of what configuration.”

“We obviously want Sam and Greg to have a fantastic home if they’re not going to be at OpenAI,” he said.

When asked about Microsoft’s view of OpenAI and possibility of obtaining a board seat, Nadella said, “It’s clear something has to change around the governance.”

In a separate interview on Kara Swisher’s “On” podcast Monday, Nadella demurred when asked whether Altman may one day be considered for the CEO role at Microsoft if he joins the company.

“Let’s just say it’s fantastic to have lots of capable people who can become CEOs of Microsoft,” Nadella said.

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