Turner, Ted 1938–
Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative; former president and chairman of the board, Turner Broadcasting System; former president, Atlanta Braves; former chairman of the board, Atlanta Hawks
Education: Attended Brown University, 1956–1959.
Family: Son of Robert Edward Turner Jr. and Florence (Rooney) Turner; married Judy Gale Nye, 1960 (divorced, 1962); married Jane Shirley Smith, 1964 (divorced, 1988); married Jane Fonda, 1991 (divorced, 2001); children: five (first marriage, two; second marriage, three).
Career: Turner Advertising Company, 1960–1962, branch manager; 1962–1963, assistant general manager; 1963–1970, president, chief executive officer, and chairman of the board; Turner Broadcasting System, 1970–1996, president and chairman of the board; Atlanta Braves, 1976–2003, president; Atlanta Hawks, 1977–2003, chairman of the board; Time Warner, 1996–2001, vice chairman of the board; AOL Time Warner, 2001–2003, vice chairman of the board.
Awards: Regional Employer of the Year, Atlanta Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1976; President's Award, National Cable Television Association, 1979; Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year, Sales Marketing and Management magazine, 1979; Hall of Fame inductee, Promotion and Marketing Association, 1980; Salesman of the Year, Sales and Marketing Executives, 1980; Private Enterprise Exemplar Medal, Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, 1980; Ace Special Recognition Award, National Cable Television Association, 1980; Communicator of the Year, Public Relations Society of America, 1981; Communicator of the Year, New York Broadcasters, 1981; International Communicator of the Year, Sales and Marketing Executives, 1981; National News Media Award, Veterans of Foreign Wars, 1981; Distinguished Service in Telecommunications Award, Ohio University College of Communications, 1982; Carr Van Anda Award, Ohio
University School of Journalism, 1982; Special Award, Edinburgh International Television Festival, 1982; Media Awareness Award, United Vietnam Veterans, 1983; Special Olympics Award, Special Olympics Committee, 1983; World Telecommunications Pioneer Award, New York State Broadcasters Association, 1984; Golden Plate Award, American Academy of Achievement, 1984; Outstanding Supporter Award, National Boy Scout Council, 1984; Distinguished Achievement Award, University of Georgia, 1985; Lifetime Achievement Award, New York International Film and Television Festival, 1984; Tree of Life Award, Jewish National Fund, 1985; Hall of Fame inductee, National Association for Sport and Physical Education, 1986; Life Achievement Award, Popular Culture Association, 1986; Golden Ace Award, National Cable Television Academy, 1987; Sol Taishoff Award, National Press Foundation, 1988; Citizen Diplomat Award, Center for Soviet-American Dialogue, 1988; President's Award, National Cable Television Association, 1989; Paul White Award, Radio and Television News Directors Association, 1989; Business Marketer of the Year, American Marketing Association, 1989; Distinguished Service Award, Simon Wiesenthal Center, 1990; Man of the Year, Time magazine, 1991.
Publications: The Racing Edge (with Gary L. Jobson), 1979; Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way (with Christian Williams), 1981; Ted Turner Speaks: Insights from the World's Greatest Maverick (with Janet Lowe), 1999.
Address: Nuclear Threat Initiative, 1747 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, 7th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20006; http://www.nti.org.
■ Few business leaders have been as eccentric and unpredictable as Robert Edward (Ted) Turner III. He took pleasure in choosing goals that seemed impossible to achieve. He created the first "superstation" television station, WTBS, which broadcast nationwide through a network of local cable television operators. He invented live television broadcasting of news events as they happened. In addition to making himself one of the world's foremost businessmen, he became the dominant figure in sailboat racing, winning an unprecedented number of ocean sailing events. He did this despite a severe mental handicap and a tendency to be tactless on any occasion, which earned him the enduring nickname of the "Mouth of the South."
REJECTION AND ABUSE
Turner's father, Robert Edward (Ed) Turner Jr. made a fortune in billboard advertising. He may have suffered from bipolar disorder, sometimes called manic depression, a disease of mood swings from mania to depression that makes it difficult for sufferers to form close personal relationships. Ed abused his son with severe, often unmotivated beatings using coat hangers and straps.
When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Ed enlisted in the navy and was posted to bases along the Gulf Coast. He took his wife and daughter with him but left his son, Ted, behind in a Cincinnati boarding school. Isolating his son from his family would become a pattern for Ed. In 1947 Ed moved his family to Savannah, Georgia, where he purchased a billboard advertising company. Ted was placed in the Georgia Military Academy near Atlanta.
In a rare moment of generosity, Ed gave his son a Penguin sailing dinghy in 1949. One of the family's African American domestics, Jimmy Brown, taught Ted how to sail and would become the man Ted regarded throughout his life as his true father. In September 1950 Ted was sent to McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Considered an elite boarding school, McCallie included military training and discipline in its curriculum. Ted immediately set about breaking rules. For every demerit a student earned, he was to walk a quarter mile on a weekend, but Ted racked up so many demerits—1,000—that he could not have possibly walked the required miles, and the school had to find new ways to punish students. Eventually, Ted advanced from troublemaker to student leader at McCallie.
Ted wanted to attend the United States Naval Academy, but his father demanded that he attend Harvard. A "C" student, Turner was rejected by Harvard, but Brown University accepted him in 1956. Ed's pleasure in his son's attending an Ivy League school turned to rage when he learned that Ted, who loved reading, planned to major in the classics. In 1959 Ted's parents divorced, and Ted was expelled from Brown for having a woman visit him in his room.
On June 23, 1960, Ted married Judy Gale Nye, a young woman he had met while pursuing his passion for sailing. She proved to be his match as a sailor and was tough and outspoken, but the marriage became a rivalry so intense that Ted once rammed her boat during a race to prevent her from beating him. The couple divorced in 1962.
In 1960 Ed made his son branch manager at Turner Advertising's office in Macon, Georgia. Ted's skills in sales more than doubled the office's revenue in a year, and in 1962 he became assistant manager of the Atlanta branch. As Ted proceeded to increase the company's customer base in Atlanta, Ed continually expanded Turner Advertising, eventually buying out a competitor. However, the buyout generated a significant amount of debt, making Ed fearful of going bankrupt. On March 5, 1963, seemingly in good spirits, he had a pleasant breakfast and then went into the bathroom and shot himself in the head.
After his father's death, Ted Turner became president and chief executive officer of Turner Advertising. The suicide also left him without the person he most wanted to impress with his success and a feeling that he might someday emulate his father's death. Turner immediately fought to retain his father's company intact, fighting efforts to buy pieces of it. With brilliant salesmanship he expanded Turner Advertising's clientele, thereby bringing in enough money to pay debts and stabilize the company's finances. On June 2, 1964, Turner married Jane Shirley Smith. Almost from the start, the marriage was unhappy, with Turner's compulsive womanizing a torment to his wife. He plunged himself into work and sailboat racing, winning many tournaments.
By 1970 Turner owned the largest advertising company in the southeast, but he worried about inroads into the billboard business made by radio and television. That year he made one of his typical leaps of faith by buying the Atlanta UHF television station WJRJ, which had lost $800,000 in 1969. Turner renamed his company Turner Communications Group and the station to WTCG. Six months later he bought the Charlotte, North Carolina, UHF station WRET, which was also losing money.
In 1971 WTCG lost $500,000, but Turner started buying old black-and-white motion pictures, adding them to the station's programming and increasing its viewership. Because Turner bought the movies outright, he could show them endlessly without paying royalties. In 1972 WTCG broke even. That year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) changed its regulations to allow cable television services to import signals from distant stations, and WTCG began using microwave transmissions and relays to send its signal to cable television operators. WTCG became a moneymaker, netting $1 million in 1973.
On December 2, 1975, RCA's SATCOM II communications satellite was launched, and Turner immediately rented a channel on it. He had a huge broadcasting dish erected in a small hollow in Georgia to send WTCG's signal to the satellite, from which it was beamed to cable television stations throughout the United States, mostly in isolated, rural areas. On January 6, 1976, Turner made a surprise bid for and bought the Atlanta Braves major league baseball team, which was losing money and was probably headed for another city. At the same time, Turner hired satellite expert Ed Taylor, a vice president at Western Union, to oversee his satellite operations. When FCC rules forbade Turner to own a station and the service that sent its signal to cable operators, he created Southern Satellite, which he then sold to Taylor for one dollar (eventually making Taylor very rich), and on December 27, 1976, the FCC approved Southern Satellite as a common carrier. Turner renamed WTCG to WTBS (for Turner Broadcasting System) and began broadcasting motion pictures and, in 1977, Atlanta Braves games all over the United States. This made WTBS the first superstation—a station that reached a large audience outside its home region. By 1978 WTBS reached more than 2 million homes.
Late in 1976 Turner bought 95 percent of the Atlanta Hawks basketball team, and he created Turner Enterprises to look after his land holdings. In addition, he announced he was going to sign the left fielder Gary Matthews to the Atlanta Braves, taking the player from the San Francisco Giants in violation of a rule against tampering with another team's personnel. Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn threatened to suspend Turner, and he spent much of baseball's winter meetings seemingly drunk out of his mind and threatening to kill Kuhn. Eventually, two of Turner's company officers had to drag Turner out of harm's way, and Kuhn suspended him for the entire 1977 season.
He took advantage of the time away from his baseball team by entering the 1977 America's Cup race. In a dramatic series of contests in mild weather, his outdated yacht Courageous defeated its competition with clever, bold tacking to win the right to defend the America's Cup against the world's challenger. In somewhat less calm weather, Turner and a crew comprising veterans in their fifties and young men won the America's Cup. Turner was too drunk to stand up during the victory celebration and was remembered for falling from his seat to the floor during presentations of the competition's awards.
Turner's greatest feat of sailing was probably in the August 1979 Fastnet race. This venerable competition required boats to sail 605 nautical miles from Plymouth, England, around Fastnet Rock near the coast of Ireland, and back to Plymouth. In 1979 a terrible storm hit; only 92 of the 302 boats that started finished the race. Twenty-two lives were lost, and many more were injured. Turner's attitude was one of win or die, and he kept his boat Tenacious at full sail even as other boats were flipped over by the gale-force winds. Tenacious itself seemed swamped at one time, but Turner refused to abandon ship. The Tenacious won one of the deadliest sailboat races in history.
In June 1980 Turner sold WRET for $20 million to help finance his latest idea, an all-news cable network. He launched the Cable News Network (CNN) to mostly negative press. Most journalists believed that no one wanted to watch news all day, a view with which the major networks, ABC, CBS, and NBC, agreed. Further, the prevailing view was that covering news for television required spending a huge amount of money that only the major networks could afford to spend. CNN originally included many long feature stories into its mix of news coverage, and it received some criticism for covering too much soft news—that is, news without much presentation of data. On January 1, 1982, Turner responded to this with CNN II, also called Headline News, which repeated the top stories of the day every half hour.
CNN did not make a profit until 1985, but by then it was evident that the bottom line did not motivate Turner as much as his unrelenting desire to be the first to do something. Nonetheless, wealth seemed to flow to him. In 1985 he launched CNN International, offering his broadcast services to cable and satellite television services around the world, and he founded a companion network, CNNRadio. In an effort to put some of his social ideas to work, he founded and funded the Better World Society, through which he advocated disarmament of nuclear weapons, environmental protection, and peaceful international relations. In that year his wife persuaded him to see psychiatrist Dr. Frank Pittman, who diagnosed Turner as having bipolar disorder and put Turner on heavy doses of lithium to try to control the disease. After several months Turner's colleagues noted improvement in his behavior, although Turner never completely let go of some of his wild impulses.
In 1986 CNN introduced flyaway dishes—satellite dishes that could be folded up for transport in aircraft or trucks and then set up anywhere—allowing CNN reporters to broadcast from anywhere in the world in real time, with no delays between when events occurred and when television viewers could see them. Turner tried to buy CBS, but CBS's management successfully fought him off with a harsh negative publicity campaign. On March 25, 1986, Turner gave up his effort to buy CBS and instead purchased MGM Entertainment Company, including United Artists (MGM/UA), from Kirk Kerkorian for $1.6 billion, acquiring 3,650 motion pictures, including popular classics such as Gone with the Wind, Citizen Kane (Turner's favorite), and Casablanca. Lacking the financing to hold MGM/UA together, he retained all the rights to the motion pictures while selling everything else back to Kerkorian, losing $100 million on the deal and generating much negative press about the bad deal he had made. However, that year alone, he made $125 million in revenue from the old MGM motion pictures.
Next, hoping to buy the broadcasting rights to the 1988 Olympics, he approached the Soviet Union to become partners with WTBS in purchasing the world broadcasting rights. The Soviet Union turned down that offer but joined Turner in creating the Goodwill Games, an opportunity for the world's athletes to measure themselves against each other in a non-Olympic year. The first Goodwill Games were held in Moscow in 1986, and Turner lost $26 million on the venture.
In 1987 Turner began colorizing MGM black-and-white motion pictures, generating protests from film critics and filmmakers. Eventually, Turner made millions of dollars from colorizing old favorites such as Miracle on 34th Street, and he applied the technology to Gone with the Wind to bring back the vibrant colors that had faded on the original print. In 1988 he expanded his cable network empire by creating Turner Network Television, which quickly became a staple of cable offerings. That year he and his second wife divorced.
In 1989, as Communism waned, more than a million young Chinese filled Beijing's Tiananmen Square, calling for a democratic government. On May 20 that year the Chinese army, led by tanks, plowed into the square, killing thousands of young people. CNN covered the event live, showing everything exactly as it happened. It marked a revolutionary moment in broadcasting that not only made people immediately aware of faraway events but also made CNN indispensable for governments everywhere. Direct feeds were installed in government buildings and embassies. The CNN crew was even able to broadcast Chinese officials shutting down CNN's broadcasting site, up to the moment of ending transmission.
In 1990 the Goodwill Games were staged in Seattle, and Turner lost $44 million on them. In 1991 he was named Time magazine's Man of the Year for his influence on broadcast communications. He purchased the cartoon collection of Hanna-Barbera, consisting of more than 8,500 cartoons, and used them to help launch his Cartoon Network in 1992. In addition, he closed the Better World Society and created the Turner Family Foundation, which gave away $10 million in 1992. Amidst this flurry of activity, he started dating Jane Fonda in 1991 and married her on December 21, 1991.
TED AND JANE
Few relationships elicited more press coverage than the marriage of Turner and Fonda, two wounded but domineering personalities. Fonda found in Turner a man who paid attention to her, who gave her respect and romance. Turner thought Fonda cute and found in her an intelligence equal to his own—an irresistibly challenging woman. They attended Atlanta Braves games, giving photographers indelible images such as Turner asleep, head on Fonda's shoulder as his team rallied in the World Series, and Fonda doing the tomahawk chop during Braves rallies.
In 1993 Turner Broadcasting System bought Castle Rock Entertainment and New Line Cinema, expanding the company's motion picture holdings and its production capacity with new studios. In 1994 Turner founded the cable channel Turner Classic Movies, taking advantage of his huge film library. The Goodwill Games were held in St. Petersburg, Russia; Turner lost $40 million on them. By this time his attention was turning away from business toward social causes, particularly environmentalism.
By 1996 he owned more than one million acres of land in the United States and Argentina, becoming America's second largest landowner. In Montana he bought thousands of acres and started returning the land to the state it was in 200 years earlier, including introducing a herd of bison. In 1996 Turner Broadcasting System merged with Time Warner, with Turner becoming vice chairman of the board of Time Warner, running all of the company's cable and production operations. He was the company's largest shareholder with 11 percent of its stock. He had long wished to found an all-sports network, and in late 1996 began CNNSI (combining CNN and Time Warner's publication, Sports Illustrated ).
His fortune grew by $1 billion in nine months, and in accordance with his impulsive style, he pledged it to humanitarian services of the United Nations, at the rate of $100 million per year for ten years. On March 17, 1997, he launched CNN en Español, an all-Spanish cable channel. In 1999 Time Warner paid Turner $700,000 in salary and a $6.9 million bonus, as well as stock options.
Turner detested Christianity and often made fun of it, a result of witnessing the horribly agonizing death of one of his sisters when he was young. When Fonda became a born-again Christian in the late 1990s, Turner was outraged because they had never discussed her conversion before it happened; she had worried that the brilliantly persuasive Turner would talk her out of it. The couple divorced in 2001. On January 8, 2001, Turner and former United States Senator Sam Nunn launched the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an organization dedicated to lessening the dangers of nuclear and other weapons. That year Time Warner merged with AOL to become AOL Time Warner. AOL was in dire financial straits, costing the company hundreds of millions of dollars. Even after dropping AOL from the company's name, Turner saw his stock value drop $7 billion. In 2002 Turner helped organize the firing of the company's chairman, Steve Case, but he was not named to replace Case as he had hoped. In late January 2003 he resigned his vice chairmanship.
See also entries on Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. and Time Warner Inc. in International Directory of Company Histories.
sources for further information
Bibb, Porter, It Ain't as Easy as It Looks: Ted Turner's Amazing Story, New York: Crown, 1993.
Brands, H. W., Masters of Enterprise: Giants of American Business from John Jacob Astor and J. P. Morgan to Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey, New York: Free Press, 1999.
Landrum, Gene N., Profiles of Genius: Thirteen Creative Men Who Changed the World, Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1993.
—Kirk H. Beetz
Beetz, Kirk. "Turner, Ted 1938–." International Directory of Business Biographies. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. (July 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3448500578.html
Beetz, Kirk. "Turner, Ted 1938–." International Directory of Business Biographies. 2005. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3448500578.html
At times, Ted Turner seemed best known for his outrageous comments or his sporting exploits than for his business skills. But during the 1970s and 1980s, he showed a knack for success in the television industry, taking a regional family business and turning it into an important media company. Turner, as much as any one single person, made cable television a part of everyday life in the United States. And with the fortune he made in television, he tried to promote international goodwill—along with promoting himself.
"If I hadn't started [Turner Broadcasting System] I couldn't have afforded to buy it. And if I hadn't started it, I would certainly not be qualified to work here in any capacity."
Young Rebel in Business
Robert Edward Turner III was born on November 19, 1938, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the first child of Ed and Florence Turner. After World War II (1939-45), Mr. Turner started a company that owned billboards. Turner Advertising became the dominant billboard company in the Southeast, providing the Turners a solid income. Ted spent most of his childhood away from his parents, first living with his grandparents while his father served in the war, then attending a military school in Georgia. Still, the boy found time to help out at the family business, mowing the grass around the poles that supported the billboards.
Turner had a difficult relationship with his father, often suffering physical abuse. The two also clashed over Turner's college education, as his father demanded he attend Brown University in Rhode Island and study business. Turner, who had an early interest in sailing, wanted to go to the U.S. Naval Academy, but he gave in to his father's wishes. Turner tended to be mischievous, and he was kicked out of Brown before he received his diploma.
Turner wanted to race sailboats, but his father wanted him to work for the family business. In 1960, he took a position at the firm's office in Macon, Georgia. (He also married his first wife that year, Judy Nye. He later married two more times.) Turner helped increase sales in Macon, showing a natural flair for business. He also took time to race boats on the side. In 1962, Turner's father expanded his company, buying part of another billboard operation. After the purchase he had second thoughts, and felt he had gotten too deeply in debt. He planned to sell Turner Advertising, an idea the younger Turner opposed. Ted even offered to buy the business, but his father went ahead with his plan to sell to outsiders.
Turning on to Television
In March 1963, Ed Turner killed himself, ending a life often filled with psychological pain. Ted Turner then began to dismantle his father's deal to sell Turner Advertising. He sold off family land to pay debts and motivated his employees to work harder. After a year, Turner Advertising was back on solid ground, and Turner once again turned to sailing. But he always paid enough attention to the company to make sure it was doing well.
Ted Turner's love of sailing lasted throughout his life. In 1977, he captained his boat Courageous as it won the America's Cup, the most important trophy in U.S. sailing.
By the late 1960s, Turner Advertising became Turner Communications, as the company purchased several radio stations in the South. Then, in 1970, the business merged with Rice Broadcasting, which owned WJRJ, an Atlanta UHF TV station. With their low-powered signals, UHF channels could not reach many viewers, but Turner saw the station as a way to expand into television. He renamed the station WTCG, for Turner Communications Group.
To attract more viewers, Turner spent wildly to buy the right to broadcast popular old situation comedies and feature films. Always the good salesmen, he convinced local companies to advertise on the channel. Turner assured them that his viewers were more intelligent than the people who watched other local stations. He knew this, Turner told Broadcasting in 1977, because "it takes a genius to figure out how to tune a UHF set." Wrestling and professional baseball also grabbed viewers, and by 1973 WTCG was making a healthy profit.
Turner, however, was not satisfied. He saw that satellite technology could bring WTCG to viewers across the country. In 1976, Turner launched his "Superstation," later changing the station's letters to WTBS, for Turner Broadcasting System. The Superstation continued to feature its usual programming, but now it could reach hundreds of thousands—and potentially millions—of viewers at once. Turner was the first person to use satellites and cable to bring a local station to a national audience. By then, Turner's deals and his strong personality earned him several colorful nicknames, including "Captain Outrageous" and "the Mouth of the South."
Ted Turner made his first large sports purchase in 1976, buying the Atlanta Braves baseball team. He later purchased the Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association and hockey's Atlanta Flames. That team eventually left Atlanta, but Turner bought the city's new hockey franchise, the Thrashers.
News for the World
After the success of WTBS, Turner bought space on a satellite for another channel, even though he didn't know what it would broadcast. By 1978, however, he began shaping a vision of a twenty-four hour news network. This decision shocked some of Turner's employees and friends. According to Porter Bibb, Turner had been quoted as saying, "I hate the news. News is evil. It makes people feel bad." But as a business opportunity, news would soon make Turner feel very good.
Traditional television networks laughed at the idea of an all-news network. But Turner, as usual, was willing to spend—and lose—money to make his vision a reality. His Cable News Network aired for the first time in 1980, although it reached fewer than two million homes wired for cable. Turner followed CNN with a headline news TV station and a CNN radio network. Slowly, more cable systems picked up CNN, and it was broadcast by satellite around the world. By 1986, CNN made its first profit, and Turner had once again created something new in television history—a successful channel entirely devoted to the news.
To Turner, CNN was a way to try to bring peace and understanding to the countries of the world. Turner's dream for world peace also led him to help start the Goodwill Games, an athletic contest similar to the Olympics. The first was held in Moscow in 1986, at a time when the former Soviet Union and the United States were locked in a Cold War, a struggle to spread their competing economic and political systems around the world. Since then, the Games have continued to attract top athletes from around the world.
Growth and Merger
Through the 1980s, Turner kept looking to expand his company. He tried to buy the CBS network in 1985. When that deal fell through, he turned to Hollywood and bought the famous MGM/UA film company. The size of the deal forced Turner to sell off most of the company's assets, but he kept its library of films. Later he bought the Hanna-Barbera animation company, and its cartoons became the foundation of another new Turner cable network, the Cartoon Network, launched in 1992. Other new stations included Turner Network Television (TNT) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM).
During the late 1980s, Ted Turner upset many film fans when he began adding color to old films that were originally shot in black-and-white. The criticism—and the cost of "colorization"—led Turner to stop the practice several years later.
As his fortune grew, Turner entered the ranching business, buying more than 150,000 acres in Montana. He started raising bison for their meat, becoming one of the leading buffalo ranchers in the nation. Turner also continued to make news with his non-business dealings, especially when he married actress Jane Fonda (1937-) in 1991. Fonda had been a vocal protester of the Vietnam War (1959-75), and she seemed an unlikely bride for the brash entrepreneur. The couple divorced in 2001.
In 1996, with Turner Broadcasting a major force in television and on the Internet, Turner announced he was selling his company to Time Warner. The deal, worth $7.5 billion, created the largest media company in the world, with annual revenues of about $20 billion. Turner took control of a new Time Warner division that combined its HBO and Cinemax channels with his TV networks. He also headed the company's efforts to expand its presence on the Internet.
The 2001 deal between Time Warner and AOL seemed to give Turner a smaller role in the company. He remained on the company's board of directors and kept his title of vice chairman, but AOL Time Warner head Gerald Levin took away Turner's control of Turner Broadcasting. That fall, Turner said, as reported in Electronic Media, "I never in my wildest dreams thought I would lose my job." Later in 2001, incoming CEO Richard Parsons indicated he would restore some of Turner's clout in the company.
Even without a large role at AOL Time Warner, Turner had plenty to do. His bison operation, which now extended over several states, was the largest in the United States, and Turner was active in many charitable efforts. He had founded the Turner Foundation in 1991, which gave up to $50 million each year to support environmental causes. Turner also backed the United Nations Foundation, giving the first of ten annual contributions of $100 million in 1997. In business and in charity, Turner always took bold steps, making a lasting impression with everything he did.
For More Information
Bibb, Porter. It Ain't as Easy as It Looks: Ted Turner's Amazing Story. New York: Crown Publishers, 1993.
Bruck, Connie. Master of the Game. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.
Clurman, Richard M. To the End of Time. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
Gabler, Neal. An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood. New York: Crown Publishers, 1988.
Swisher, Kara. aol.com. New York: Times Business, 1998.
Steve Case: Connecting the World
When Steve Case was in college, he hated working with the punch cards once used to program computers. But as he recalled in Kara Swisher's aol.com, computer networks fascinated him: "The faraway connections seemed magical. It struck me as the most completely obvious use for them, and the rest was just for computer wonks." As one of the founders of the company that became America Online, Case pursued his vision of giving people—average people, not "wonks"—easy access to computer networks and the world of information they could provide.
Case was born in Hawaii in 1958. As a boy, he and his older brother Dan started several businesses, including a juice stand and a magazine distribution operation. In these early commercial efforts, Case tended to work behind the scenes, a reflection of his shy personality. After attending college in Massachusetts, Case took a marketing job at the Procter & Gamble Company (see entry) in Cincinnati, Ohio. His time at P&G taught him the importance of developing strong brand names and building customer loyalty. Case then took a job at Pizza Hut. Based in Wichita, Kansas, he began communicating with friends around the country through one of the first on-line services, the Source.
In 1983, Case joined Control Video Corporation (CVC), which wanted to market video games through an on-line service. The video game market was collapsing, but Case believed in the value of on-line computer communications. Case and partners Jim Kimsey and Marc Seriff turned the failing CVC into Quantum Computer Services, which eventually became AOL. Case used strong marketing tactics to introduce the AOL brand name and constantly tried to make the service easier to use. He also followed trends in computing and networking; in 1994, AOL began offering access to the World Wide Web, which had become a major part of the broader network called the Internet.
By 1998, AOL had knocked off all its existing competitors and withstood the challenges of new rivals. Case, however, took a broad view of his and his company's success. "It's only the second inning," he told Fortune in 1998. "And this is a world that can change overnight." Case couldn't have seen how much those changes would affect him. Less than three years later, he was chairman of AOL Time Warner, and struggling to keep profits up at AOL.
Case, like many of the young computer tycoons of the 1980s and 1990s, made a large fortune with his high-technology company. But unlike such visible leaders as Steve Jobs of Apple Computer, Inc. and Bill Gates from the Microsoft Corporation (see company entries), Case did not dazzle people with his genius or seek much media attention. He stayed focused on giving AOL customers what they wanted, and thinking about the long-term uses of network and wireless services. Case told Fortune in 2002, "We are still moving toward a more connected society. That's the real story."
Bates, James. "Levin Emerges on Top of Another Huge Merger." Los Angeles Times (January 11, 2000): p. C-9.
Gunther, Marc. "The Internet is Mr. Cases's Neighborhood." Fortune (March 30, 1998): p. 68.
Gunther, Marc, and Stephanie Mehta. "The Mess at AOL Time Warner." Fortune (May 13, 2002): p.74.
Howe, Peter J. "Marriage off to Rocky Start." Boston Globe (April 28, 2002): P. C1.
Koprowski, Gene. "AOL CEO Steve Case." Forbes (October 7, 1996): p. S94.
Mermigas, Diane. "Parsons Wants Ted Back." Electronic Media (December 10, 2001): p. 1.
Pomice, Eva. "The Moguls of Media, Inc." U.S. News & World Report (March 20, 1989): p. 66.
Roberts, Johnnie L. "Main Men." Newsweek duly 29, 1996): p. 42.
Saporito, Bill. "Time for Turner." Time (October 21, 1996): p. 72.
Schiesel, Seth. "Chief-to-Be Says AOL Has One Problem Area." New York Times (May 7, 2002): p. C8.
Stevenson, Swanson. "From Conception, AOL-Time Warner Deal Moved Quickly." Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News (January 10, 2000).
"Time Warner + Warner Communications: Media Giants Strike Merger Deal." Broadcasting (March 13, 1989): p. 28.
AOL Time Warner. [On-line] http://www.aoltimewarnercom (accessed on August 15, 2002).
"Turner, Ted." Leading American Businesses. 2003. Encyclopedia.com. (July 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3498000015.html
"Turner, Ted." Leading American Businesses. 2003. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3498000015.html
Ted Turner (born 1938), American television entrepreneur, was a pioneer in the field of cable television, establishing the first satellite superstation and the first all-news network. He already was worth more than $2 billion by 1996, when he merged his Turner Broadcasting Network with Time Warner to create the world's largest media company.
Born November 19, 1938, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Robert Edward (Ted) Turner III was the oldest child of Ed and Florence Turner. When Turner was nine years old, his father, a native Southerner, moved the family to Savannah, Georgia, where he had bought an outdoor advertising company that was renamed the Turner Advertising Company. This business later launched the younger Turner's successful career as an innovative and risk-taking communications entrepreneur.
Raised by a harsh and domineering father, Turner was sent to military schools in Georgia and Tennessee. He wanted to go to the Naval Academy but he enrolled at Brown University where his father wanted him to study business. The rebellious Turner majored in classics, though he later switched to economics. Although excelling in debating and sailing, he was expelled from the college for entertaining a woman in his dormitory room, which was against college regulations.
In 1960, after a stint with the Coast Guard, Turner began working for his father as a general manager for the advertising company's branch in Macon, Georgia. The senior Turner, unable to face possible financial collapse after developing a successful business, committed suicide on March 5, 1963. At age 24, Turner inherited a struggling company, and with some bold financial maneuvers he aggressively reversed its sagging fortunes, developing the confidence and resources for his growing ambition.
Cable Television Pioneer
In 1970 Turner took his first step into the television industry. He acquired an independent Atlanta UHF station, Channel 17, that was losing about half a million dollars a year. Relying on a combination of programming, local sports, old movies, and such popular network re-runs as Star Trek, Turner achieved a significant 16 percent share of the television market while the station became profitable.
In 1975 the launching of an RCA satellite opened the way for rapid changes in the burgeoning cable television industry. Following the lead of Home Box Office, Turner quickly capitalized on the new potential. He built a $750, 000 transmission antenna and on December 27, 1976, began beaming a signal which could be received and re-broadcast by cable operators across the nation. He had created the country's first "superstation, " WTBS. The super-station audience grew as more and more homes were wired to receive cable. From 1978 to 1986 the number of families watching WTBS jumped from two million to 36 million, and the station was earning Turner Broadcasting $70 million a year, which provided the foundation for Turner's other investment ventures.
Turner maintained his successful UHF formula for programming on the new superstation. Again, popular network re-runs, movies, and sports provided the major viewing fare. As a way of ensuring a steady diet of sports programming, Turner, in 1976, became owner of the Atlanta Braves baseball team, whose games were seen nationally. He dubbed the Braves "America's Team" despite a losing record. (The team finally were World Champions in 1995). Turner in 1996 also purchased the Atlanta Hawks professional basketball team.
Not satisfied with a profitable superstation, Turner in June 1980 created at enormous cost the Cable News Network (CNN), the country's first 24-hour all-news station. An experiment that was expected to fail by most media experts, CNN was both entrenched and showing a profit by 1986. In 1982 Turner inaugurated a second news channel, Headline News Network, which provided continuous half-hour summaries of events.
Buys MGM's Movie Library
A calculating and visionary entrepreneur who regarded himself as an underdog battling the media giants, Turner desired a foothold among the networks. In 1985 he made an unsuccessful effort to seize control of the CBS corporation. In the wake of that failure, he set his sights on acquiring the Metro-Golden-Mayer/United Artists company in order to obtain direct access to its vast film library, a necessary and increasingly expensive component of his superstation programming.
The $1.6 billion deal was completed in March 1986, with Turner getting control of MGM's film library. Insiders speculated that the purchase price was inflated. Moreover, Turner had to be bailed out by a cable television consortium to avoid bankruptcy after the MGM purchase—thus risking the loss of his personal control of Turner Broadcasting. Having ignored the advice of his financial advisers and industry analysts in the past, Turner expected to survive the gamble. By the time of the merger with Time Warner in 1995, the acquisition looked like a stroke of genius.
Merges Turner Broadcasting with Time Warner
In 1995, Turner agreed to sell Turner Broadcasting to Time Warner for $7.5 billion. The merger went into effect in October 1996 following approval by the Federal Trade Commission and the shareholders of the two companies. As vice chairman of Time Warner, Turner reported to that company's CEO, Gerald Levin. Turner assumed responsibility for running the merged company's cable networks, including Time Warner's Home Box Office (HBO) and TBS's Cable New Network (CNN), Cartoon Network, and Turner Classic Movies.
When the deal was announced, many asked how Tuner, who had been his own boss for 35 years could go and work for somebody else. His salary reportedly was $25 million over five years. Perhaps more important, he also became the largest shareholder in Time-Warner, then the world's largest media company, with more than $20 billion in annual revenues from cable television, films, books, magazines, music, and the Internet.
The merger set up a titanic brawl between Turner and another media mogul, Rupert Murdoch. The fireworks began in the fall of 1996 when Turner convinced Levin not to carry Murdoch's fledgling Fox News Service. In approving its merger with TBS, the FTC had ordered Time Warner to offer its millions of subscribers another 24 hour news service in addition to CNN. Instead of Fox News, Time Warner aired MSNBC, a joint venture between Microsoft and General Electric's NBC, whose softer format posed less of a competitive threat to CNN.
The refusal to carry Fox News meant that it would not be seen in New York City, where Time Warner enjoyed a near-monopoly with 1.1 million cable subscribers. Murdoch's news station thus would be invisible to the Madison Avenue advertising agencies and media chieftains whose decisions are worth millions to a cable network. To get around Time-Warner's lock on cable systems, Murdoch announced plans to invest $1 billion in a satellite TV service called Sky, which would offer both cable TV and local broadcast programming.
Time-Warner's decision was followed by a war of words and dirty tricks not seen since the days of William Randolph Hearst. When Murdoch retaliated by canceling plans to carry a Time Warner-owned entertainment channel, Turner immediately likened Murdoch to Nazi leader Adolph Hitler. Later he called Murdoch a "scumbag." Murdoch's New York Post yanked Turner's CNN from its television listings. The Post also dredged up the radical-chic past of "Hanoi Jane" Fonda, Turner's third wife. And it speculated publicly about whether Turner, reportedly a manic-depressive, was neglecting to take his lithium. Perhaps not entirely factitiously, Turner in September 1997 suggested that he and Murdoch settle their highly publicized feud with a boxing match. "It would be like Rocky, only for old guys, " said Turner.
Sports Influence Multiplied Dramatically
In his earlier years, Turner personally participated in international sports competition. Having received the Yachtsman of the Year award an unprecedented three times, he was the winning skipper of the America's Cup race in 1977. Within a few years of purchasing the Atlanta Braves, Turner and TBN were involved in practically every major professional sport. In July 1986 Turner's superstation carried the Goodwill Games, held in Moscow, which featured athletic competition between U.S. and Soviet athletes. In a joint effort with the Soviet Union, Turner he organized and promoted the Olympics-like event. A second competition was held in Seattle, Washington, in 1990. Although the two events lost $66 million, Turner hoped they would foster better relations between the two countries. For his contributions to international broadcasting, Time magazine named him "Man of the Year" in 1991.
By the late 1990s, Ted Turner was worth more than $2 billion; the largest private landowner in the U.S., he divided his days between luxurious homes in six states. A flamboyant and shrewd businessman, he was also a celebrity who worked and lived in the fast lane. In December 1991, Turner married Jane Fonda, movie star and liberal activist. Two previous marriages had produced five children, who sit with Turner and Fonda on the board of the charitable Turner Foundation.
In the highly publicized relationship with Fonda, Turner apparently abandoned the philandering that had plagued his earlier marriages and sought to remake himself as a devoted, loving husband. Fonda, for her part, retired from the screen and folded Fonda Films, her independent production company. While both remained workaholics, they seemed to take genuine pleasure in their times together.
In September 1997, Turner literally stunned the world when he pledged $1 billion to the good-works program of the United Nations. Established programs such as feeding children, helping refugees and the poor, and removing land mines would benefit from his donation. (He has promised to give $100 million a year for a decade to U.N. programs.) After making the largest single pledge in philanthropic history, Turner challenged other wealthy citizens by declaring, "I'm putting every rich person in the world on notice."
Ted Turner is the subject of a biography, Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way: The Story of Ted Turner, by Christian Williams (1981). He was the subject of several long magazine profiles, including Newsweek (June 16, 1980), Time (August 9, 1982), and Fortune (July 7, 1986). Turner collaborated with Gary Jobson on a book about sailing, The Racing Edge (1979). He also signed a contract with Simon and Schuster for an autobiography.
See also Bibb, Porter, It Ain't As Easy As It Looks: The Story of Ted Turner & CNN (1993). Goldberg, Robert and Gerald J. Goldberg, Citizen Turner (1995). Painton, Priscilla, "The Taming of Ted Turner, " Time (January 6, 1992). Andrews, Suzanna, "Ted Turner among the Suits, " New York (December 9, 1996). Conant, Jennet, "Married … With Buffalo, " Vanity Fair (April 1997) [discusses marriage and relationship between Turner and Jane Fonda]. Masters, Kim and Bryan Burrough, "Cable Guys, " Vanity Fair (January 1997). See also Newsweek, September 29, 1997. □
"Ted Turner." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (July 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404706500.html
"Ted Turner." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3404706500.html
Turner, Ted 1938– (R. E. Turner)
TURNER, Ted 1938–
(R. E. Turner)
Full name, Robert Edward Turner III; born November 19, 1938, in Cincinnati, OH; son of Robert Edward (a billboard advertising magnate) and Florence (maiden name, Rooney) Turner; married Judy Nye Hallisey (divorced); married Jane Shirley Smith (a flight attendant), 1964 (divorced, 1988); married Jane Fonda (an actress), December 21, 1991 (divorced May 22, 2001); children: (first marriage) Robert Edward IV, Laura Lee; (second marriage) Beauregard, Rhett, Jennie. Education: Graduated from Brown University with a degree in the classics. Avocational Interests: Sailing, fishing.
Addresses: Office— Ted Turner Pictures, 133 Luckie St., NW, 7th Floor, Atlanta, GA 30303.
Career: Broadcasting and sports executive. WTBS (independent television station), Atlanta, GA, president and chair of the board, 1970–96; Turner Broadcasting System, Atlanta, president and chair of the board, 1979–96, with services including Cable News Network, 1980—, Turner Network Television, 1988—, CNN2, CNN Radio, and Cable Music Channel; Time Warner, Inc., vice chairman, 1996–2000; owner of some 3,600 films originally made for Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 1987—. Turner Outdoor Advertising, Atlanta, account executive, 1961–63, president and chief operating officer, 1963–70; Atlanta Braves (baseball team), owner and president, 1976—; Atlanta Hawks (basketball team), part–owner and chair of the board, 1977—. Martin Luther King Center, Atlanta, member of the board of directors; Better World Society (an organization to promote socially conscious television programming), founder and executive, 1985–91; Turner Family Foundation (an organization which donates money), founder, 1991.
Member: National Cable Television Association, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (board of directors, Atlanta chapter), National Audubon Society, Cousteau Society, Bay Area Cable Club.
Awards, Honors: Regional Employer of the Year Award, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1976; winner of America's Cup as captain of the yacht Courageous, 1977; Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year, Sales Marketing and Management Magazine, 1979; President's Award, National Cable TV Association, 1979, 1989; Inductee, Hall of Fame, Promotions and Marketing Association, 1980; Salesman of the Year Award, Sales and Marketing Executives, 1980; Private Enterprise Exemplar medal, Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, 1980; Ace Special Recognition Award, National Cable TV Association, 1980; Communicator of the Year Award, Public Relations Society of America, 1981; Communicator of the Year Award, New York Broadcasters, 1981; International Communicator of the Year Award, Sales and Marketing Executives, 1981; National News Media Award, Veterans of Foreign Wars, 1981; Vanguard Award for Associates, National Cable Television Association, 1981; Distinguished Service in Telecommunications Award, Ohio University College of Communications, 1982; Carr Van Anda Award, Ohio School of Journalism, 1982; Edinburgh International TV Festival, Scotland, Special Award, 1982; Board of Governors Award, NATAS (Atlanta chapter), 1982; Drexel University, DSc in Commerce, 1982; Samford University, LLD, 1982; Media Awareness Award, Vietnam Veterans Organization, 1983; Special Olympics Award, Special Olympics Committee, 1983; Dinner of Champions Award, Multiple Sclerosis Society (Georgia chapter), 1983; Praca Special Merit Award, New York Puerto Rican Association for Community Affairs, 1983; Inductee, Dubuque (Iowa) Business Hall of Fame, 1983; Central New England College of Technology, D. Entrepreneurial Science, 1983; World Telecommunications Pioneer Award, New York State Broadcasters Association, 1984; Golden Plate Award, American Academy Achievement, 1984; Boy Scouting Award, Boy Scout Council, Outstanding Supporter, 1984; Silver Satellite Award, American Women in Radio and TV, 1984; Lifetime Achievement Award, New York International Film and TV Festival, 1984; Atlanta University, LLD, 1984; D. Public Administration, 1984; Corporate Star of the Year Award, National Leukemia Society, 1985; Distinguished Achievement Award, University of Georgia, 1985; Tree of Life Award, Jewish National Fund, 1985; Business Executive of the Year Award, Georgia Security Dealers Association, 1985; Massachusetts Maritime Academy; University of Charleston, D. Business Administration, 1985; Lifetime Achievement Award, Popular Culture Association, 1986; George Washington Distinguished Patriot Award, S.R., 1986; Inductee, National Association for Sport and Physical Education Hall of Fame, 1986; Missouri Honor Medal, University of Missouri School of Journalism, 1987; Golden Ace Award, National Cable TV Academy, 1987; Lowell Thomas Award, International Platform Association, 1987; Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism, National Press Foundation, 1988; Citizen Diplomat Award, Center for Soviet–American Dialogue, 1988; Chairman's Award, Cable Advertising Bureau, 1988; Directorate Award, NATAS, 1989; Paul White Award, Radio and TV News Directors Association, 1989; Business Marketer of the Year Award, American Marketing Association, 1989; Distinguished Service Award, Simon Wiesenthal Center, 1990; Glastnost Award, Vols. American and Soviet Life Magazine, 1990; Edward Weintal Prize for Diplomatic Reporting, Georgetown University's Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, 1990; Vanguard Award for Programmers, National Cable Television Association, 1990; Banff Television Festival Outstanding Achievement Award, 1991; named Man of the Year, Time Magazine, 1991; inductee, TV Hall of Fame, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1992; Special Award, National Board of Review, 1992; Governor's Award, Emmy Awards, 1992; Golden Boot Award, 1993; Career Achievement Award, Television Critics Association, 1995; Career Achievement Award, International Documentary Association, 1996; David Susskind Lifetime Achievement Award, Producers Guild of America, 1995; Lifetime Achievement Award in Television, PGA Golden Laurel Awards, 1996; Humanitarian Award, Women in Film Crystal Awards, 1999; Emerson College, honorary degree, 2000; Trinity College, honorary degree, 2001; Named Yachtsman of the Year four times; CINE Lifetime Achievement Award, CINE Competition, 2002.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Hope News Network (also known as Bob Hope's News Network ), NBC, 1988.
CNN Special Report: A Conversation with Carl Sagan, Cable News Network (CNN), 1989.
A Conversation with Castro, CNN, 1990.
The 11th Annual ACE Awards, 1990.
Ted Turner Talking with David Frost, PBS, 1991.
First Person with Maria Shriver, NBC, 1992, 1993.
MGM: When the Lion Roars (also known as The MGM Story ), TNT, 1992.
November 22, 1963: Where Were You? A Larry King Special Live from Washington, TNT, 1993.
Fourth Annual Environmental Media Awards, 1994.
The 10th Annual Television Academy Hall of Fame, 1994.
Naked News, Arts and Entertainment, 1995.
Barbara Walters Presents " The 10 Most Fascinating People of 1995, " ABC, 1995.
Panelist, An American Family and Television: A National Town Hall Meeting, USA Network, The Disney Channel, Bravo, The Family Channel, Cartoon Channel, Nickelodeon, Animal Planet, STARZ!, Food Network, MSG Network, and Encore, 1997.
The Goodwill Games Opening Ceremonies, TBS, 1998.
American Film Institute's 100 Years ... 100 Movies, CBS, 1998.
Jane Fonda: The E! True Hollywood Story, E! Entertainment Television, 2000.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
" How to be a Good Listener, " Arli$$, HBO, 1997.
Television Appearances; Miniseries:
Himself, Cosmos, 1980.
(Cameo) Lieutenant Colonel W. T. Patton, Gettysburg, 1993.
Television Work; Specials:
Creator, Without Borders (documentary), TBS, 1989.
Creator, The Portrait of Great Britain, TBS, 1990.
Creator, Portrait of Japan, TBS, 1992.
Executive producer, WCW Superbrawl VIII, 1998.
Television Work; Series:
Concept, Captain Planet and the Planeteers (animated; also known as The New Adventures of Captain Planet ), 1990.
Executive producer, WCW Worldwide Wrestling, 1991.
Executive producer, WCW Saturday Night (also known as WCW Saturday Morning ), 1991.
Executive producer, WCW Monday Nitro (also known as World Championship Wrestling Monday Nitro ), 1995.
(As R. E. Turner) Creator, " The Cold War " (also known as " Cold War: A Television History "), CNN Perspectives, CNN, 1998.
Executive producer, WCW Thunder, TNT, 1998.
Himself, Southern Voices, American Dreams, 1985.
(Uncredited) Darryl Fan, The Slugger's Wife (also known as Neil Simon's The Slugger's Wife ), 1985.
(Uncredited) Colonel Waller T. Patton, Gettysburg, 1993.
Himself, Fidel (documentary), First Run Features, 2001.
(As R. E. Turner) Colonel Tazewell, Gods and Generals, 2003.
Executive producer, Starrcade (also known as NWA Starrcade ), 1985–2000.
Executive consultant, Amazing Grace and Chuck, TriStar, 1987.
Assistance, Powaqqatsi, 1988.
Executive producer, NWA Halloween Havoc (also known as Halloween Havoc and WCW Halloween Havoc ), 1989–1998.
Executive producer, Capital Combat (also known as WCW Capitol Combat ), 1990.
Executive producer, WCW Beach Blast, 1992.
Executive producer, WCW Uncensored, 1996.
Executive producer, WCW Bash at the Beach, 1996.
Executive producer, WCW Fall Brawl, 1998.
Executive producer, WCW/NOW Superstar Series: Diamond Dallas Page—Feel the Bang!, 1998.
Executive producer, WCW Souled Out, 1999.
Producer, WCW New Blood Rising, 2000.
Executive producer, Starrcade (also known as WCW Starrcade ), 2000.
Executive producer, Gods and Generals, Warner Bros., 2003.
(With Gary Jobson) The Racing Edge, Simon & Schuster, 1979.
Ted Turner Speaks: Insights from the World's Greatest Maverick, Wiley & Sons, 1999.
Wrote (with Porter Bibb) It Ain't As Easy As It Looks.
Business Leader Profiles for Students, Volume 2, 2002.
Goldberg, Robert, and Gerald Jay Goldberg, Citizen Turner: The Wild Rise of an American Tycoon, Harcourt Brace, 1995.
Schonfeld, Reese, Me and Ted against the World: The Unauthorized Story of the Founding of CNN, Cliff Street Books, 2001.
Cosmopolitan, September, 1995, p. 262.
Current Biography, June, 1998, p. 52.
Fortune, March 3, 2003, p. 56; May 26, 2003, p. 124.
Harper's Magazine, December, 1997, p. 10.
Inc., April, 1997, p. 11.
Maclean's, February 17, 2003, p. 36.
People Weekly, December 25, 1995, p. 87.
U.S. News & World Report, October 28, 2002, p. 38.
Variety, February 24, 2003, p. 6.
Ted Turner Official Site, http://www.tedturnerpictures.com, November 1, 2003.
"Turner, Ted 1938– (R. E. Turner)." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (July 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3427800221.html
"Turner, Ted 1938– (R. E. Turner)." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. 2004. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3427800221.html
American baseball executive
World-class sailor. Sports impresario. Stadium developer. Philanthropist. Media maverick and tycoon.
These are just some of the many roles played by Robert Edward Turner III, better known as Ted Turner.
"He has set ocean racing records that will never been equaled. (With the launch in 1980 of Cable News Network) he has revolutionized the broadcast industry and made Marshall McLuhan's 'global village' real by tying the world together in one television network," Porter Bibb says in It Ain't as Easy as It Looks, a seminal Turner biography published in 1993. "He is complicated and contradictory, but utterly compelling," Bibb writes.
Where to begin with this multifaceted man who grew up in a privileged, but somewhat dysfunctional household? How about at Brown University where Turner, after serving a six-month suspension during his freshman year in 1956, returned to win nine intercollegiate sailing races. Later Turner, who held his own against some of the nation's best collegiate sailors, was elected Brown team captain, as well as commodore of the Brown Yacht Club.
Sailing became an outlet for Turner, who started his business career working for his father's billboard company in 1960. Their relationship was strained, at best. "Nothing could have suited his temperament or his talent better. Alone against the elements, his fate in his own hands … he could sail away from the banalities of the business world, the petty demands of ordinary existence," Bibb writes.
By the late 1960s, Turner was sailing virtually full-time because of the success of the family billboard company. But Turner, the consummate sailor and businessman, was not complacent in either endeavor. Troubled by spending money to maintain unrented billboards, Turner turned them into a vehicle to promote local radio stations he just had purchased. Essentially, Turner was validating what would become a keystone of his business strategy: cross fertilization among the disparate parts of the far-flung media empire that Time Warner ultimately swallowed in 1996.
Brash and Abrasive
Turner refused to modify his occasionally abrasive style, even when navigating the somewhat staid sailing ranks. Because of his brashness he was awarded the moniker "Mouth of the South." His outspokenness, however, did not affect his sailing prowess. A string of successes culminated in Turner being named Yachtsman of the Year in 1970. In fact, he bested Bill Ficker who, as Intrepid captain earlier that year, engineered an America's Cup victory over Australia's Gretel II. Turner won the same award again in 1973, 1977 and 1979.
Meanwhile, Turner continued to build a media empire. In January 1970, Turner Communications Corp.'s merger with Rice Broadcasting brought it WJRJ, the weaker of two UHF (Ultra High Frequency) independent stations in the Atlanta market. To fill what seemed like endless programming hours, Turner broadcast popular, low-cost 1960s fare such as "Leave it to Beaver" and reruns of "I Love Lucy." Moreover, he won a bidding contest in 1973 with a competing Atlanta television station for rights to 60 baseball games played by the then struggling Atlanta Braves, three times the number previously televised.
Looked to Expand
With this plethora of programming at hand, Turner sought a wider outlet. He found it in late 1974 when he decided to send television signals to an orbiting communications satellite that, in turn, would relay them to dishshaped receivers owned by the cable television stations across the country. Thus on December 17, 1976, Turner's "Superstation" was born. The signal was seen from Honolulu to the Virgin Islands and throughout all of North America. "Ted's strategic thinking was sound and foresighted. He essentially was doing an end run around the networks—ABC, CBS, and NBC—and their huge investment in landlines," says Jeremy Byman in his short biography, "Ted Turner, Cable Television Tycoon."
To ensure that the Braves would remain a TBS regular, Turner bought the money-losing team in 1976. Because the Braves provided guaranteed programming, Turner said he could afford to lose $5 million a year on team operations and still come out ahead.
But such subsidies did not sit well with Turner. To bolster the sagging team's fortunes and endear himself and the team to a nonplussed Atlanta, Turner became its prime cheerleader and marketing guru. Seemingly nothing was off limits when building Braves mania. Promotions included Easter egg hunts, ostrich races, free halter-top giveaways and belly dancer performances.
His work paid off when the Braves captured the first professional sports championship for Atlanta after they beat the Cleveland Indians, four games to two, in the 1995 World Series. Through the 2002 season, the team won 11 straight division titles.
|1938||Born November 19 in Cincinnati, Ohio|
|1976||Starts TV "SuperStation" concept, transmitting by satellite from WTBS in Atlanta to cable systems nationwide.|
|1977||Wins America's Cup match, world's top sailboat competition.|
|1980||Founded Cable News Network, the first 24-hour, all-news network, through his company, Turner Broadcasting System.|
|1985||Makes unsuccessful $5 billion bid for CBS|
|1986||Buys MGM's prized film library from Kirk Kerkorian for about|
|$1.5 billion, providing raw material for Superstation TBS.|
|1986||Stages Goodwill Games, Olympic-style competition between communist and capitalist countries, that continue in 1990, 1994 and 1998 in New York|
|1991||Purchases Hanna-Barbera cartoon library, which consists of 8,500 espisodes of such cartoon classics as the Flintstones and Yogi Bear, providing basis for 24-hour cartoon network|
|1991||Marries actress and fitness guru Jane Fonda on December 21; his third marriage|
|1996||Sells TBS to Time Warner Inc. for $7.6 billion and becomes vice chairman and a company director of the media conglomerate.|
|2000||Contributes $34 million to United states to help reduce U.S. dues to international body.|
|2000||Turner and Fonda announce separation; divorce becomes final in 2001|
|2002||Instrumental in ouster of CEO Steve Case as chairman of AOL Time Warner|
|2003||Announces resignation as AOL Time Warner Inc. vice chairman, effective May 2003|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1970||U.S. Sailing Yachtsman of the Year|
|1973||U.S. Sailing Yachtsman of the Year|
|1977||U.S. Sailing Yachtsman of the Year|
|1979||Outstanding Entreprenuer of the Year, Sales Marketing and Management Magazine|
|1979||U.S. Sailing Yachtsman of the Year|
|1984||Lifetime Achievement Award, N.Y. International Film and TVFestival|
|1988||Citizen Diplomat Award, Center for Soviet-American Dialogue|
Clashed with Baseball Hierarchy
However, prior to registering such unprecedented success, some of Turner's antics did not sit well with the baseball establishment. Turner even managed the Braves for one game, in May 11, 1977, before Commissioner Bowie Kuhn ordered him out of the dugout. Charged with tampering in the signing of outfielder Gary Matthews, Kuhn suspended Turner for the balance of the 1977 season.
That gave Turner the opportunity to focus elsewhere. In late December 1976, Turner also added the struggling Atlanta Hawks basketball team to his growing professional sports stable. Making the deal sweeter was the low price tag: $400,000, plus assumption of a $1 million note.
Freed at least for a year from his pressing baseball obligations, Turner threw himself into his other passion, sailing. He underwrote construction of the innovatively designed, aluminum-hulled Courageous, a boat selected to defend the America's Cup against challenger Australia. Turner piloted his craft to a sweep over the challenger from Down Under.
Clashed with Baseball Hierarchy
However, Turner's bid to defend the Cup three years later fell short, with his loss to Dennis Connor. The result: Turner renounced competitive sailing and sold his boats, Courageous and Tenacious. In fact, most of Turner's subsequent racing has been with an 18-foot catamaran crew, with son, Rhett, on the crew.
Turner in 1986 launched the quadrennial Goodwill Games, an alternative international sports competition, that were played through 1998. The motivations were twofold: to provide an alternative athletic forum following Washington's decision to boycott the 1980 Winter Olympics in Moscow (the Soviet Union boycotted the Los Angeles Summer Olympics in 1984) and, of course, provide a source of ready programming for TBS during the slack periods.
Turner also expanded his sports franchise when he founded the Atlanta Thrashers, a National Hockey League expansion team that began play in 1999. It plays at the $213 million Philips Arena, a new face on the Atlanta sports skyline that complements the $235 million Turner Field, named after the owner of the Atlanta Braves, the primary tenant. It opened in March, 1997.
As sportsman, Turner was a sailing champion. As a sports entrepreneur in the 1970s, Turner represented a new breed of owner. He epitomized corporate ownership while remaining a hands-on maverick. He blurred the distinction between business and sports, and remains highly influential today in both, despite his departure from AOL Time Warner early in 2003 amid a management shakeup. Turner, at the time of his announcement, remained the largest individual shareholder of AOL Time Warner.
SELECTED WRITINGS BY TURNER:
(With Gary Jobson) The Racing Edge. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979.
Captain Planet and the Planeteers (original idea by Ted Turner). Atlanta: Turner Publications, 1992.
(With Janet Lowe) Ted Turner Speaks: Insights from the World's Greatest Maverick. New York: Wiley, 1999.
Bibb, Porter. It Ain't As Easy As It Looks. New York: Crown, 1993.
Byman, Jeremy. Ted Turner: Cable Television Tycoon. Greensboro, NC: Morgan Reynolds, 1998.
Peers, Martin and Ken Brown. "AOL's Winners and Losers." Wall Street Journal (January 14, 2003): B1.
"Future Muddy for Braves, Hawks, Thrashers." Atlanta Journal-Constitution. http://www.accessatlanta.com/ajc/sports/0103/30turner.html (January 29, 2003).
"Ted Turner Bio Information." Austin American-Statesman. http://www.austinaas/business/ap/ap_story.html/Financial/AP.V7urner-Bio-Box.html (January 29, 2003)
Sketch by Paul Burton
Burton, Paul. "Turner, Ted." Notable Sports Figures. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (July 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3407900585.html
Burton, Paul. "Turner, Ted." Notable Sports Figures. 2004. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3407900585.html
Ted Turner (Robert Edward Turner 3d), 1938–, American television network executive, b. Cincinnati. After inheriting his father's billboard company, he founded (1976) a television station, WTBS, and built it into the Turner Broadcasting System (TBS). He pioneered
broadcasting, in which a TV station provides programming via satellite to cable systems nationwide. In 1980 he established the Cable News Network (CNN), television's first 24-hour news channel, which was first met with skepticism and is now a broadcasting fixture; in 1988 he added TNT, a movie channel, and in 1992, the Cartoon Network. After his failed attempt to purchase the CBS network, Turner bought the MGM/UA Entertainment Company, gaining a vast library of film classics. TBS also offered sports programming after acquiring the Atlanta Braves baseball team (1976) and a holding in the Atlanta Hawks basketball team (1977). In 1996, TBS merged with Time Warner Inc. Turner became vice chairman of Time Warner in charge of the TBS subsidiary, a position he held until he became a vice chairman (2000–2003) of AOL Time Warner. In 1997, Turner announced he would give $1 billion to United Nations programs; he also has underwritten a number of other programs devoted to international understanding and peace and the environment. A competitive sailor and sports enthusiast, he won the America's Cup yachting race in 1977. He was married to Jane Fonda from 1991 to 2001.
See J. Lowe, ed., Ted Turner Speaks (1999); biographies by P. Bibb (1993) and K. Auletta (2004).
"Turner, Ted." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. (July 29, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Turner-T.html
"Turner, Ted." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-Turner-T.html