Tech giant Microsoft has hired the founders of cutting-edge artificial intelligence company OpenAI Sam Altman and Greg Brockman as the heads of a new advanced AI research team, just days after the duo left the company that they set up in 2015.
Last week, Altman, the former CEO of OpenAI, was fired in circumstances that are still unclear, with the company's board saying in a statement that he "was not consistently candid in his communications with the board", but offering no further explanation.
Previously, Microsoft has invested billions of dollars into OpenAI's development of the ChatGPT system, which has become one of the world's most well-known AI tools since it was launched last year.
The relationship between the companies has been so close that when OpenAI announced Altman's departure on Friday, shares in Microsoft fell by almost 2 percent.
A statement published on social media platform X by Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella said the company remains "committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product road map …we look forward to getting to know (new CEO) Emmett Shear and OAI's new leadership team and working with them".
But there was a twist in the tale for OpenAI, with Nadella saying that Altman and Brockman will join "together with colleagues".
Altman described his sudden departure from OpenAI as "a weird experience in many ways", comparing the reaction to "reading your own eulogy while you're still alive".
On X, Brockman added: "We are going to build something new &it will be incredible… the mission continues", listing some potential new working partners, including several major names from OpenAI.
Bill Blain, market strategist at asset management company Shard Capital, was quoted by The Guardian as saying that he expected many other staff members to make the switch to Microsoft, and that from a position of market lead, OpenAI, a nonprofit organization, had been dealt a significant blow.
"OpenAI had a 'sort-of' monopoly on AI, giving some hope it could be controlled by its not-for-profit structure. That is now blown," he said. "AI startups around the world will hire whoever they can from the train wreck it now is. The cork is out the bottle."
Shear, who stepped down as CEO of streaming service Twitch nine months ago when his son was born, said he had spoken to his family and reflected "for just a few hours" before accepting the "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to take over OpenAI.
He said Altman's exit had been "handled very badly" and that bringing in an independent investigator to go through the process leading up to this point would be one of his first tasks as the new boss.