After 30 years as Bon Jovi's sidekick, the rocker left the band in 2013, citing his desire to spend more time with his daughter, in addition to working on his solo career.
And now, as the group prepares to release its first full studio record without Richie this autumn (16), Jon has opened up about the split for the first time, insisting he has put the past behind him despite the abrupt ending to a long friendship.
"I haven't seen him in over three years," Jon tells U.S. programme CBS This Morning. "He just didn't show up for work anymore. And that's the truth of the matter. And life goes on. You know, being in a rock band is not a life sentence... you have other things in your life that you care to do. But it's OK, because you share your art as long as you choose to share it.
"You don't have to do this for a living - you choose to do it for a living."
While Sambora continues to rock on as a solo act, he refuses to rule out a return to the band, insisting he just needed to take care of a few matters before he could sign up for another lengthy world tour.
He previously told Lust for Life magazine, "There's no bad blood with me anymore. I still see the possibility of a return. There are just a few steps I want to... take."
"It's hurt me that more and more untrue things have come out in the media. I just wanted calmer waters, and just do something for myself. But the Bon Jovi machine was on. I said I wanted a break. We had just finished with another tour... (and) I saw a year of other priorities for me. I wanted to make my own music, and preferred doing a few shows with my own band. That was just not accepted."
But Sambora might face more than a little resistance if her ever thinks about returning to the band - Jon said he'd be "hard-pressed" to let the guitarist rejoin.