Microsoft, Salesforce, Nvidia swoop in to hire OpenAI employees as walkout threats increase

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Microsoft, Salesforce, Nvidia swoop in to hire OpenAI employees as walkout threats increase



OpenAI’s decision to fire CEO Sam Altman may have put the company’s future in jeopardy. 

The lion’s share of its employees have reportedly threatened to walk out unless the ousting is reversed. Complicating matters further, a number of executives from Big Tech organizations have offered jobs to employees considering leaving.

Microsoft chief technology officer Kevin Scott and Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff have offered to match the compensation of any OpenAI employees looking to jump ship, while team leaders at both Meta’s Fundamental AI Research tea and Nvidia have solicited resumes and offered to place former OpenAI employees in their divisions.

The outpouring of support comes on the heels of a rollercoaster 12 months for OpenAI. The firm released its seminal ChatGPT product in November 2022 to worldwide acclaim. In the time since, the company’s valuation has catapulted to a reported $86 billion. However, Altman’s surprise ousting on Nov. 17 has resulted in unprecedented turmoil for the firm.

As of the time of writing, a reported 700 of the company’s supposed 770 employees — including Ilya Sutskever, the sole remaining co-founder to occupy a position on the firm’s board of directors — have signed a letter signaling their intent to walk out if Altman isn’t reinstated.

Related: Microsoft and Nvidia stocks reach all-time highs amid OpenAI CEO shuffle

While the threat of an employee walkout isn’t unusual in the tech sector after a company overhaul, this particular scenario could have an outsized impact, according to speculation from numerous researchers and pundits.

One less likely scenario involves the hypothetical wholesale hiring of all available OpenAI employees by a larger firm such as Microsoft. This would effectively create a hostile takeover scenario wherein OpenAI is acquired in all but name for pennies on the dollar.

However, there are multiple other scenarios to consider. Recent reports show that OpenAI’s board and newly hired CEO, Emmett Shear, are engaged in “intense discussions” with employees and stakeholders.

If successful, OpenAI could retain its core development team and move forward with its new CEO. But Microsoft’s hiring of Altman as the CEO of an as-yet-undisclosed new artificial intelligence division within the company could complicate matters, as he may no longer be incentivized to lead OpenAI.

It remains to be seen whether OpenAI employees will make good on their threat to walk out if the company chooses not to overturn its Nov. 17 decision or if Altman refuses to return.

Microsoft and OpenAI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.