OpenAI’s newly minted CEO may be insisting that all is well between the AI firm and Microsoft—but it appears he wasn’t a fan of working for the company during an earlier phase in his career.
Shear—who co-founded and formerly headed up streaming service Twitch—was named interim CEO of OpenAI on Sunday after Sam Altman’s shock ousting.
However, the tech entrepreneur is coming into the role not only tasked with winning over OpenAI’s mutinous workforce, but also seemingly unimpressed with a major business partner.
In a post to the X social media platform earlier this year, he recounted his experience as an intern at Microsoft—a major investor in OpenAI.
When I was interning for Microsoft every paycheck felt like I was getting the payment for a little chunk of my soul in the mail
— Emmett Shear (@eshear) July 27, 2023
It is unclear exactly when Shear interned for the tech giant, or in what capacity.
Until he took on the top job at OpenAI, Shear described himself in his X profile bio as “super opinionated.” That descriptor has now been erased and replaced with the biography: “interim CEO of OpenAI”.
His unfiltered thoughts on how working for Microsoft made him feel is one of a series of controversial social media posts.
Just last week, he posted that “most of the CEO job (and the majority of executive jobs) are very automatable” alongside a screenshot of an article debating whether or not chief executives could be replaced with AI.
In another post earlier this year, he engaged in a conversation about sexual consent and so-called “free use” fetishes—where participants consent to be sexually available to their partners at all times—citing a Wikipedia article to argue that “40-60% of women seem to have rape/non-consent fantasies.”
Representatives for OpenAI and Shear did not respond to Fortune’s request for comment.
Shear’s X post about his Microsoft internship came after he stepped down from Twitch to spend time with his infant son.
But now, the tech entrepreneur—who sold his company to Amazon for almost $1 billion in 2014—has found himself on the same team as the tech giant as he faces an employee mutiny and lingering investor loyalty to his predecessor.
In a statement published on X early on Monday, Shear insisted that OpenAI’s partnership with Microsoft “remains strong.” He pledged to use his first month on the job to have conversations with as many employees, partners and investors as possible, and “share the key takeaways.”
“I will drive changes in the organization — up to and including pushing strongly for significant governance changes if necessary,” he said. “OpenAI’s stability and success are too important to allow turmoil to disrupt them like this. I will endeavor to address the key concerns as well, although in many cases I believe it may take longer than a month to achieve true progress.”
Microsoft, which has invested more than $10 billion in the ChatGPT creator, did not respond to Fortune’s questions about Shear’s past tweets.
However, the company has publicly doubled down on its commitment to OpenAI in the wake of the chaos at the AI startup.
“We remain committed to our partnership with OpenAI and have confidence in our product roadmap, our ability to continue to innovate with everything we announced at Microsoft Ignite, and in continuing to support our customers and partners,” CEO Satya Nadella said in a post on X. “We look forward to getting to know Emmett Shear and OAI’s new leadership team and working with them.”
However, Microsoft has also remained loyal to Altman, onboarding him and ousted OpenAI president Greg Brockman to lead its new in-house AI division—and Nadella hinted in an interview with CNBC on Monday that Altman returning to OpenAI still remained a possibility.
“We want Sam and Greg to have a fantastic home if they’re not going to be in OpenAI,” he said, adding that it was for OpenAI’s board, leadership and employees to decide whether Altman could be reinstated in some capacity at the startup.
“We chose to partner with OpenAI and we want to continue to do so, and obviously that depends on the people at OpenAI staying there or coming to Microsoft, so I’m open to both options,” he said when asked if Altman might return to OpenAI.
Altman was fired as OpenAI CEO on Friday afternoon, with the company saying he was “not consistently candid” with its board. Brockman quit alongside him in an apparent show of solidarity.
The move has led to backlash from OpenAI’s several hundred employees, most of whom have threatened to leave the company if the board doesn’t resign over Altman’s sacking. Investors in the company, including Microsoft’s Nadella, reportedly spent the weekend attempting to get OpenAI to rehire Altman and Brockman.
Prior to Shear accepting his new gig at OpenAI—which he has described as a “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”—the CEO role was temporarily held by the company’s chief technology officer Mira Murati. Murati was reportedly planning to rehire Altman back into another role at the company before being replaced by Shear.