Microsoft preparing San Francisco offices for OpenAI employees, even as chaos lingers

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A pedestrian walks by a sign at a LinkedIn office on July 26, 2023 in San Francisco, California.
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The status of OpenAI is uncertain at the moment. But Microsoft wants the startup’s employees to know they still have a home.

The company has begun making preparations for hundreds of OpenAI employees at its LinkedIn offices in downtown San Francisco, about two miles from OpenAI’s headquarters.

Microsoft, which previously invested billions in OpenAI, also has human resources and legal staff on standby to handle hiring and onboarding, a source familiar confirmed to CNBC. The company is also preparing work spaces and Apple MacBook laptops. Axios first reported Microsoft’s space planning efforts.

This week, more than 90% of OpenAI employees signed a letter demanding that the OpenAI board resign or watch staffers leave and join their former boss, Sam Altman, at Microsoft. Early Monday morning, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that Altman, Greg Brockman and their colleagues would join Microsoft as part of a new artificial intelligence research group.

However, by Monday evening, it became less evident that Altman and Brockman would actually be joining Microsoft.

Nadella told CNBC’s Jon Fortt in a Monday interview that 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.

Altman is said to be in talks with the OpenAI board to consider returning to the company, Bloomberg reported earlier on Tuesday.

Still, Microsoft’s preparation takes into account the hundreds of employees who signed OpenAI’s letter.

In a Tuesday post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Kevin Scott, Microsoft’s technology chief, offered to match the compensation of OpenAI employees who are considering a departure from the company following Altman’s surprise ouster.

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