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Ted Turner

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Ted Turner

Ted Turner
Turner in 2007
Born Robert Edward Turner III
(1938-11-19) November 19, 1938
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
Education The McCallie School
Alma mater Brown University
Occupation Media tycoon
Known for founder of TBS and CNN
former Atlanta Braves owner
Ted's Montana Grill
Home town Atlanta, Georgia
Net worth Increase $2.2 billion (2013)[1]
Spouse(s) Julia Gale Nye
Jane Shirley Smith
Jane Fonda
Children 5
Official website

Robert Edward "Ted" Turner III (born November 19, 1938[2]) is an American media mogul and philanthropist. As a businessman, he is known as founder of the cable news network CNN, the first 24-hour cable news channel. In addition, he founded WTBS, which pioneered the superstation concept in cable television. As a philanthropist, he is known for his $1 billion gift to support the United Nations, which created the United Nations Foundation, a public charity to broaden support for the UN. Turner serves as Chairman of the United Nations Foundation board of directors.[3]

Turner's media empire began with his father's billboard business, which he took over at 24 after his father's suicide.[4] The business, Turner Outdoor Advertising, was worth $1 million when Turner took it over in 1963 (roughly $7.7 million in present day terms[5]). Purchase of an Atlanta UHF station in 1970 began the Turner Broadcasting System. Cable News Network revolutionized news media, covering the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 and the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Turner turned the Atlanta Braves baseball team into a nationally popular franchise and launched the charitable Goodwill Games. He helped reinvent interest in professional wrestling when he owned one of the most popular wrestling companies of the middle to late 1990s known as World Championship Wrestling (WCW). The Monday night show that it put on was the highest rated on cable and helped boost Turner's channels of TNT and WTBS.

Turner's penchant for controversial statements earned him the nicknames "The Mouth of the South" and "Captain Outrageous".[6][7] Turner has also devoted his assets to environmental causes. He was the largest private landowner in the United States until John C. Malone surpassed him in 2011.[8][9] He uses much of his land for ranches to re-popularize bison meat (for his Ted's Montana Grill chain), amassing the largest herd in the world. He also created the environmental-themed animated series Captain Planet and the Planeteers.


Early life

Turner was born in The McCallie School, a private boys' preparatory school in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Turner attended Brown University and was vice-president of the Brown Debating Union and captain of the sailing team. He became a member of Kappa Sigma. Turner initially majored in Classics. Turner's father wrote saying that his choice made him "appalled, even horrified", and that he "almost puked".[11] Turner later changed his major to Economics, but before receiving a diploma, he was expelled for having a female student in his dormitory room.[12] Turner was awarded an honorary B.A. from Brown University in November 1989 when he returned to campus to keynote the National Association of College Broadcasters second annual conference.

Business career


After leaving Brown University, Turner returned to the South in late 1960 to become general manager of the [4] and turned the firm into a global enterprise. He joined the Young Republicans, saying "he felt at ease among these budding conservatives and was merely following in Ed Turner's far-right footsteps," according to It Ain't As Easy As It Looks.

During the Vietnam War Era, Turner’s business prospered; it “had virtual monopolies in Savannah, Macon, Columbus, and Charleston” and was “the largest outdoor advertising company in the Southeast”, according to It Ain’t As Easy As It Looks. The book observed that Turner “discovered his father had sheltered a substantial amount of taxable income over the years by personally lending it back to the company” and “discovered that the billboard business could be a gold mine, a tax-depreciable revenue stream that threw off enormous amounts of cash with almost no capital investment”. In the late 1960s, Turner used the profits to buy Southern radio stations.

In 1969, he sold his several radio stations to buy a struggling television station in Atlanta, WJRJ, Channel 17. At the time, UHF stations did well only in markets without VHF stations, like Fresno, California, or in markets with only one station on VHF. Independent UHF stations were not ratings winners or that profitable even in larger markets, but Turner had the foresight that this would change as people wanted more than several choices. He changed the call sign to WTCG (standing for "Watch This Channel Grow"). Initially, the station ran old movies from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, along with theatrical cartoons and very old sitcoms and old drama shows. As better syndicated product fell off the VHF stations, Turner would pick it up for his station at a very low price. WTCG ran mostly second- and even third-hand product of the time, including fare such as Gilligan's Island, I Love Lucy, Star Trek, Hazel, and Bugs Bunny. WTCG acquired rights to telecast the Atlanta Braves baseball games in 1973. Turner also purchased UHF Channel 36 WRET (now WCNC) in Charlotte, North Carolina and ran it with a format similar to WTCG.

In 1976, the FCC allowed Turner’s WTCG to use a satellite to transmit content to local cable TV providers around the nation. On December 17, 1976, the rechristened WTCG-TV Super-Station began to broadcast old movies, situation comedy reruns, cartoons, and sports nationwide to cable-TV subscribers. As cable systems developed, many carried his station to free their schedules. This increased his viewers and advertising. Subscribers eventually reached two million subscribers and Turner's net worth rose to $100 million. He bought a 5,000-acre (20 km2) plantation in Jacksonboro, South Carolina, for $2 million.

In 1978, Turner struck a deal with a student-operated radio station at MIT, Technology Broadcasting System to obtain the rights to the WTBS call sign for $50,000. This allowed Turner to strengthen the branding of his "Super-Station" using the acronym TBS; Turner Communications Group was renamed Turner Broadcasting System and WTCG was renamed as WTBS.

In 1976, Turner bought the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks, partially to provide programming for WTCG. Using the rechristened WTBS' superstation status to beam Braves games into nearly every home in North America, Turner made the Braves a household name even before their run of success in the 1990s and early 2000s. At one point, he suggested to pitcher Andy Messersmith, who wore number 17, that he change his surname to "Channel" to promote the television station.[13]

In 1986, Turner founded the Goodwill Games. Broadcasting the events of these games provided his super-station the ability to provide Olympic-style sports programming that had been offered by only one of the three major networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) up to that time.

Turner Field, first used for the 1996 Summer Olympics as Centennial Olympic Stadium and then converted into a baseball-only facility for the Braves, is named after him.


Turner created the Cable News Network in 1980. He said: "We won't be signing off until the world ends. We'll be on, and we will cover the end of the world, live, and that will be our last event . . . we'll play 'Nearer, My God, to Thee' before we sign off."

After five years, CNN outgrew its home, a former country club on the outskirts of Midtown, Atlanta. Turner purchased the Omni International from developer Tom Cousins and moved CNN there. The complex was rechristened the CNN Center. As Omni International, the complex had never succeeded. Cousins sold it to Turner along with the Atlanta Hawks. CNN moved into the end of the tower that once housed The World of Sid and Marty Krofft. CNN was a considerable force in the revival of Atlanta's downtown.

Brut Productions

In 1981, Turner Broadcasting System acquired Brut Productions from Faberge Inc.[14]


After a failed attempt to acquire CBS, Turner purchased the film studio MGM/UA Entertainment Co. from Kirk Kerkorian in 1986 for $1.5 billion. Following the acquisition, Turner had an enormous debt and sold parts of the acquisition. MGM/UA Entertainment was sold back to Kirk Kerkorian. The MGM/UA Studio lot in Culver City was sold to Lorimar/Telepictures. Turner kept MGM's pre-May 1986 and pre-merger film and TV library, which included nearly all of MGM's material made before the merger, and a small portion of United Artists' film and TV properties which included few UA pictures, the TV series Gilligan's Island, the U.S and Canadian distribution rights to RKO Radio Pictures library, and the pre-1950[15][16] Warner Bros. library and the Fleischer and Famous Studios Popeye cartoons that both were once the property of Associated Artists Productions, which merged with UA Television in 1958).

Turner Entertainment

Turner Entertainment Co. was established in August 1986 to oversee film properties owned by Ted Turner. In 1988, Turner purchased Jim Crockett Promotions which he renamed World Championship Wrestling (WCW) which became the main competitor to Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation (WWF). In 2001, under AOL Time Warner, it was sold to the World Wrestling Federation.

In 1989, Turner created the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship for fiction offering positive solutions to global problems. The winner, from 2500 entries worldwide, was Daniel Quinn's Ishmael.


In 1988, he introduced Turner Network Television (TNT) with Gone with the Wind. TNT, initially showing older movies and television shows, added original programs and newer reruns. TNT used World Championship Wrestling (WCW) to attract a broader audience.

TCM (Turner Classic Movies)

Since launch in late 1994, Turner Classic Movies broadcast the older Warner Bros, RKO, and MGM libraries. In the mid-1980s, Turner became a force for the colorization of black-and-white films. In 1985, the film Yankee Doodle Dandy became the first black-and-white movie redistributed in color after computer coloring. Despite opposition by film aficionados, stars, and directors, the movie won over a section of the public,[17] and Turner colorized a majority of films that he had owned. However, in the mid-1990s, the cost led Turner to abandon the idea. In contrast with TNT, TCM has shown the unaltered versions of films.

Cartoon Network

In 1992, the MGM library, which included Warner Brothers properties including the early Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies libraries and also the Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios Popeye cartoons, became the core of Cartoon Network. A year before, Turner's companies purchased Hanna-Barbera Productions (whose longtime parent, Taft/Great American Broadcasting, had been headquartered in Turner's original hometown of Cincinnati), adding additional content. With the 1996 Time Warner merger, the channel's archives gained the later Warner Bros. cartoon library.

Turner Foundation

Turner with Vladimir Putin.

In 1990, he created the Turner Foundation, which focuses on philanthropic grants in environment and population. In the same year he created Captain Planet, an environmental superhero. Turner produced two TV series with him as featured character.


In 1993, Turner and Russian journalist Eduard Sagalajev founded The Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corporation. This corporation operated the sixth frequency in Russian television and founded the Russian channel TV-6. The company was later purchased by Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky and an unknown group of private persons. In 2007 the license for TV-6 had expired and there was no application for renewal.

Time Warner merger

Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. merged with Time Warner, Inc. on October 10, 1996, with Turner as vice chairman and head of Time Warner and Turner's cable networks division.[18] Turner was dropped as head of cable networks by CEO Gerald Levin but remained as Vice Chairman of Time Warner. He resigned as Time Warner vice chairman in 2003 and then from the board of directors in 2006.

On January 11, 2001, Time Warner was purchased by AOL to become AOL Time Warner, a merger which Turner initially supported.[19] However, the burst of the dotcom bubble hurt the growth and profitability of the AOL division, which in turn dragged down the combined company's performance and stock price. At a board meeting in fall 2001, Turner's outburst against AOL Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin eventually led to the latter's announced resignation effective in early 2002, being replaced by Richard Parsons. In contrast to Levin who as CEO isolated Turner from important company matters, Parsons did invite Turner back to provide strategic advice although Turner never received an operational role that he sought.[20] The company dropped "AOL" from its name in 2003. In December 2009, AOL was spun off from the Time Warner conglomerate as a separate company.

Turner was Time Warner's biggest individual shareholder. It is estimated he lost as much as $7 billion when the stock collapsed in the wake of the merger. When asked about buying back his former assets, he replied that he "can't afford them now".[21] In June 2014 Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox made a bid for the company valuing it at $80 billion. The Time Warner board rejected the offer and it was formally withdrawn on August 5, 2014.

Rivalry with Murdoch

Turner has a long-running grudge with fellow cable magnate Rupert Murdoch. This originated in 1983 when a Murdoch-sponsored yacht collided with Turner's boat during the [22]

Atlanta Braves

For most of his first decade as owner of the Braves, Turner was a very hands-on owner. This culminated in his second year as owner, 1977. With the team mired in a 16-game losing streak, Turner sent manager Dave Bristol on a 10-day "scouting trip" and took over as interim manager—the first owner/manager in the majors since Connie Mack. He ran the team for one game (a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates) before National League president Chub Feeney ordered him to step down. Feeney cited major league rules which bar managers and players from owning stock in their clubs. Turner appealed to Commissioner of Baseball Bowie Kuhn, and showed up to manage the Braves when they returned home. However, Kuhn turned the appeal down, citing Turner's "lack of familiarity with game operations".[23]

In the mid-1980s Turner began leaving day-to-day operations to the baseball operations staff.


He used to be America's largest private landowner, owning approximately 2,000,000 acres (8,100 km2), greater than the land areas of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. According to documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, Turner's land has a higher gross domestic product than Belize. He has the largest private bison herd, with 50,000 head. In 2002, Turner co-founded Ted's Montana Grill, a restaurant chain specializing in bison meat.[26]

Under his ownership, World Championship Wrestling became the only federation to outrate and outsell the McMahon family and their World Wrestling Federation. This event brought about a rise in popularity to professional wrestling and is now known as the Monday Night Wars. WCW television ratings were also heavily competing with ABC's Monday Night Football.

After the American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics, Turner founded the Goodwill Games as a statement for peace through sports.[27]

In 1990, the American Humanist Association named Turner the Humanist of the Year.

Turner appeared in Gettysburg as Colonel Waller T. Patton in 1993 and reprised the role in the 2003 prequel Gods and Generals; he produced both films.

In 1998, Turner pledged to donate $1 billion[28] of his then $3 billion to United Nations causes, and created the United Nations Foundation to administer the gift. The foundation "builds and implements public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the UN through advocacy and public outreach". In 2006, the foundation delivered its billionth dollar to UN causes — $600m of which came from Turner and $400m from public and private partners. Turner has pledged to use the remaining $400m of his commitment to leverage additional funds for UN causes and activities.

Turner served in the United States Coast Guard and was one of the 2013 recipients of the Lone Sailor Award, which recognizes Navy, Marine and Coast Guard veterans who have distinguished themselves in their civilian careers.[29] He is also a recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Gold Medal for Humanitarianism.

In 2006, Turner received the Bower Award for Business Leadership from The Franklin Institute.[30]

Turner was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame on April 26, 2007.

2010 Georgia Trustee. Given by the [31]


On September 19, 2006, in a Reuters Newsmaker conference, Turner said of Iran's nuclear position: "They're a sovereign state. We have 28,000. Why can't they have 10? We don't say anything about Israel — they've got 100 of them approximately — or India or Pakistan or Russia." A proponent of [32]

In 2010, in the wake of both the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster in West Virginia on April 5, that killed 29 miners and on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 crew on April 20, Turner stated on CNN that "I'm just wondering if God is telling us He doesn't want to drill offshore. And right before that, we had that coal mine disaster in West Virginia where we lost 29 miners . . . Maybe the Lord's tired of having the mountains of West Virginia, the tops knocked off of them so they may get more coal. I think maybe we ought to just leave the coal in the ground and go with solar and wind power and geothermals . . . "[33]

Controversial comments

Turner once called observers of Ash Wednesday "Jesus freaks", though he apologized,[34] and dubbed opponents of abortion "bozos."[34]

In 2008, Turner explained he not only regretted these statements but said he had made peace with organized religion and had worked with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and the United Methodist Church to fight malaria.[35] In a 2008 MSNBC interview, Turner stated that he no longer considers himself atheist or agnostic, and prays for sick friends, but keeps it short because "I don't want to load up the wires."[36]

Turner caused a stir in Montana in 2003 by funding a project to restore westslope cutthroat trout to Cherry Creek and Cherry Lake. The controversy stemmed from the poison antimycin used to kill the other fish in the stream to make way for the westslope cutthroat trout.[37]

In 2008, Turner asserted on PBS's Charlie Rose television program that if steps are not taken to address global warming, most people would die and "the rest of us will be cannibals". Turner also said in the interview that he advocated Americans having no more than two children. In 2010, he stated that China's one-child policy should be implemented.[38]

Views on the shifting media landscape

Turner claims to have predicted the demise of newspapers 30 years ago and has called print journalism “an obsolete way of distributing information”.[32] Ted Turner also became more critical of media consolidation around 2004. He expressed some regret that he took advantage of the relaxed rules that allowed greater concentration of media ownership, and raised concerns about the quality of information and debate in an environment where the news is controlled by only a few wealthy corporations and individuals.[39]


In the 1997 biography It Ain't As Easy as It Looks by Porter Bibb, Turner discussed his use of lithium and struggles with his illness. In 2008, Turner wrote Call Me Ted, which documents his career and personal life.

Turner with Jane Fonda.

Personal life

Turner has been married and divorced three times: to Judy Nye (1960–64), Jane Shirley Smith (1965–88), and actress Jane Fonda (1991–2001). He has five children.[40]

Turner was religious until he saw his sister suffer for five years and die at 17. He has gone back and forth about whether he is agnostic. He still asserts that he is, although he still prays for friends when they are sick, because "it can't hurt anything".[41]

Through Turner Enterprises, he owns 15 ranches in Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.[42][43] Totaling 1,910,585 acres (7,731.86 km2), his US land-holdings make Turner one of the largest individual landowners in North America (by acreage).[43]

Turner's biggest ranch is Vermejo Park Ranch in New Mexico. At 920 square miles (2,400 km2), it is the largest privately owned, contiguous tract of land in the United States.[44]

Turner sponsors the Public forum debate of the National Forensic League.

In a television interview with [45]

One of Turner's children, Robert Edward "Teddy" Turner IV, announced on January 23, 2013, that he will run in the South Carolina Republican primary for the open Congressional seat vacated by Tim Scott who was appointed to the U.S. Senate.[46]


When Turner was 26, he entered sailing competitions at the Savannah Yacht Club and competed in Olympic trials in 1964.[47] He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated on July 4, 1977,[48] after being chosen to lead the 1977 America's Cup defense as skipper of the yacht Courageous.[49] He had purchased the boat after its 1974 America's Cup victory. On September 18, 1977, he successfully defended the America's Cup, defeating Australia 4-0.[50] He was inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame in 1993,[51] and the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2011.[52]

In the 1979 Fastnet race, in a storm that killed 15 participants, he skippered Tenacious to a corrected-time victory.[53]


  1. ^ "Ted Turner". Forbes. 
  2. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica. "Ted Turner – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Retrieved March 24, 2010. 
  3. ^ "UN Foundation". 
  4. ^ a b Porter Bibb (1996). Ted Turner: It Ain't As Easy as It Looks: The Amazing Story of CNN. Virgin Books. pp. 55–56.  
  5. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  6. ^ Porter Bibb (1996). Ted Turner: It Ain't As Easy as It Looks: The Amazing Story of CNN. Virgin Books. pp. 138, 272, 283, 442.  
  7. ^ Koepp, Stephen (April 12, 2005). "Captain Outrageous Opens Fire". Time. 
  8. ^ Doyle, Leonard (December 1, 2007). "Turner becomes largest private landowner in US – Americas, World". London: The Independent. Retrieved March 29, 2009. 
  9. ^ Seelye, Katharine Q. (January 28, 2011). "For Land Barons, Acres by the Millions".  
  10. ^ "Ted Turner Biography (1938-)". Film Reference. Retrieved March 24, 2010. 
  11. ^ "This is my son. He speaks Greek",, July 25, 2012. Letter reproduced from Call Me Ted.
  12. ^ Porter Bibb (1996). Ted Turner: It Ain't As Easy as It Looks: The Amazing Story of CNN. Virgin Books. pp. 26–33.  
  13. ^ Gary Caruso (March 20, 2008). "Messersmith: The game's first free agent".  
  14. ^ "Faberge Sells Brut's Assets". New York Times. Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
  15. ^ You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story, (2008) p. 255.
  16. ^ WB retained a pair of features from 1949 that they merely distributed, and all short subjects released on or after September 1, 1948; in addition to all cartoons released in August 1948.
  17. ^ "Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) – Trivia". Retrieved March 29, 2009. 
  18. ^ Pelline, Jeff (September 23, 1995). "Time Warner Closes Deal for Turner". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  19. ^ Ross, Patrick; Hansen, Evan (January 11, 2001). "AOL, Time Warner complete merger with FCC blessing". CNET. Retrieved June 2, 2012. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ Levingston, Steven (February 25, 2006). "Turner To Leave Time Warner February 25, 2006".  
  22. ^ "'"Turner: Murdoch is a 'warmonger.  
  23. ^ Hannon, Kent. Benched from the Bench. Sports Illustrated, 1977-05-23.
  24. ^ "Paul White Award".  
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Ted's Montana Grill". Retrieved March 29, 2009. 
  27. ^ JERE LONGMAN (December 22, 2001). "GOODWILL GAMES; Turner's Games, Losing Money, Are Dropped".  
  28. ^ Nicholas Kristof (December 26, 2012). "How Giving Became Cool". The New York Times. Retrieved December 26, 2012. 
  29. ^ "Lone Sailor Award Recipients".  
  30. ^ "R.E. (Ted) Turner – The Franklin Institute Awards – Laureate Database". The Franklin Institute. 2006. Retrieved August 5, 2008. 
  31. ^ Van, Adam (February 14, 2010). "Ted Turner, Hank Aaron influenced each other as well as Georgia". Retrieved October 10, 2012. 
  32. ^ a b "Working Lunch 1: In Conversation with Ted Turner." Global Creative Leadership Summit, September 2009.
  33. ^ "Stupid Quotes." In The Limbaugh Letter. July 2010. p. 11.
  34. ^ a b Jim Rutenberg (March 19, 2001). "MediaTalk; AOL Sees a Different Side of Time Warner".  
  35. ^ "Ted Turner uses churches for malaria campaign". Spero News. April 6, 2008. 
  36. ^ Meet the Press' transcript for Nov. 30, 2008"'".  
  37. ^ Scott McMillion (August 5, 2003). "Poisoning begins on Cherry Creek".  
  38. ^ Bonne, Christian (December 8, 2010). "Ted Turner: Adopt China's one-child policy to save planet".  
  39. ^ Turner, Ted. "My Beef With Big Media", Washington Monthly, 2004.
  40. ^ A Conversation With Ted Turner, at time 48:40. Retrieved April 6, 2008.
  41. ^ Sellers, Patricia (November 19, 2013). "Ted Turner at 75". CNN. 
  42. ^ Tribune staff. "125 Montana Newsmakers: Ted Turner". Great Falls Tribune. Retrieved August 28, 2011. 
  43. ^ a b "Ranches". Ted Turner. Retrieved March 29, 2009. 
  45. ^ " Video". CNN. 
  46. ^ Smith, Bruce. Ted Turner's son vying in SC congressional primary, Associated Press, January 23, 2013.
  47. ^ Haupert, Michael John. The Entertainment Industry.  
  48. ^ "Ted Turner on Sports Illustrated cover". CNN. July 4, 1977. Retrieved April 27, 2011. 
  49. ^ "A Brash Captain Keeps the Cup".  
  50. ^ "Courageous - US 26". Retrieved April 27, 2011. 
  51. ^ "Herreshoff Marine Museum & America's Cup Hall of Fame". Retrieved October 10, 2012. 
  52. ^ "Turner, Ted - 2011 Inductee". Retrieved October 10, 2012. 
  53. ^ Rousmainiere, John (1980). Fastnet, Force 10. New York: Norton.  

Further reading

  • Call Me Ted by Ted Turner and Bill Burke (Grand Central Publishing, 2008) ISBN 978-0-446-58189-9
  • Racing Edge by Ted Turner (Simon & Schuster, 1979) ISBN 0-671-24419-1


External links

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