Turner in 2007
|Born||Robert Edward Turner III
November 19, 1938
Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.
|Education||The McCallie School|
|Alma mater||Brown University|
|Known for||Founder of TBS and CNN
Co-founder of the Nuclear Threat Initiative
Former Atlanta Braves owner
Ted's Montana Grill
Founder of TV-6 (Russia)
|Home town||Atlanta, Georgia|
|Net worth||$2.2 billion (June 2015)|
|Spouse(s)||Julia Gale Nye
Jane Shirley Smith
Robert Edward "Ted" Turner III (born November 19, 1938) is an American media mogul and philanthropist. As a businessman, he is known as founder of the Cable News Network more popularly known as 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 domestic support for the UN. Turner serves as Chairman of the United Nations Foundation board of directors. Additionally, in 2001, Turner co-founded the Nuclear Threat Initiative with U.S. Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA). NTI is a non-partisan organisation dedicated to reducing global reliance on, and preventing the proliferation of, nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. He currently serves as Co-Chairman on the Board of Directors.
Turner's media empire began with his father's billboard business, Turner Outdoor Advertising, which he took over in 1963 after his father's suicide. It was worth $1 million at the time (roughly $7.73 million in present-day terms). His 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 revive interest in professional wrestling by buying World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and starting the Monday Night Wars in 1995, airing Monday Nitro on his TNT head-to-head against the World Wrestling Federation's Monday Night RAW on USA.
Turner's penchant for controversial statements earned him the nicknames "The Mouth of the South" and "Captain Outrageous". 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. 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.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Business career
- 3 Rivalry with Murdoch
- 4 Atlanta Braves
- 5 Achievements
- 6 Politics and religion
- 7 Views on the shifting media landscape
- 8 Books
- 9 Personal life
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Turner was born on November 19, 1938 in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Florence (née Rooney) and Robert Edward Turner II, a billboard magnate. When he was nine, his family moved to Savannah, Georgia. He attended 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". Turner later changed his major to Economics, but before receiving a diploma, he was expelled for having a female student in his dormitory room. 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.
After leaving Brown University, Turner returned to the South in late 1960 to become general manager of the Macon, Georgia branch of his father's business. Following his father's March 1963 suicide, Turner became president and chief executive of Turner Advertising Company when he was 24 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,[clarification needed] 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.
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 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.
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; Kerkorian bought back MGM/UA Entertainment. 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 the RKO Radio Pictures library, and the pre-1950 Warner Bros. library and the Fleischer Studios/Famous Studios Popeye cartoons that both were once the property of Associated Artists Productions, which merged with United Artists Television in 1958.
Turner Entertainment Co. was established in August 1986 to oversee film and TV properties owned by Ted Turner.
World Championship Wrestling
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.
Turner Tomorrow Fellowship
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 MGM, Warner Bros., and RKO 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, 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.
In 1992, the pre-May 1986 MGM library, which included Warner Bros. properties including the early Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies libraries and also the Fleischer Studios and Famous Studios Popeye cartoons from United Artists, 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 as well as other Time Warner-owned cartoons.
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. 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. 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. 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". 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 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, causing it to sink 10 km from the finish line. At the post-race dinner, Turner verbally assaulted Murdoch, afterward challenging him to a televised fistfight in Las Vegas. In 2003, Turner challenged Murdoch to another fistfight, and later accused Murdoch of being a "warmonger", as he was backing President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq.
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".
In the mid-1980s Turner began leaving day-to-day operations to the baseball operations staff.
- 1989: Paul White Award, Radio Television Digital News Association
- 1991: Ted Turner became the first media figure to be named Time magazine's Man of the Year. That same year, Turner was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, and he received the Audubon medal from the National Audubon Society for his commitment to conservation-themed television programming.
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.
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.
In 1990, the American Humanist Association named Turner the Humanist of the Year.
In 1998, Turner pledged to donate $1 billion 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. He is also a recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Gold Medal for Humanitarianism.
Turner was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame on April 26, 2007.
2010 Georgia Trustee. Given by the Georgia Historical Society, in conjunction with the Governor of Georgia, to individuals whose accomplishments and community service reflect the ideals of the founding body of Trustees, which governed the Georgia colony from 1732 to 1752.
Politics and religion
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 healthcare reform bills, Turner has said: “We’re the only first world country that doesn’t have universal healthcare and it’s a disgrace.”
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 . . . "
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. 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." However, in 2013 he declared himself still to be agnostic, saying that he still prays for friends when they are sick, because "it can't hurt anything".
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.
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.
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”. 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.
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.
Through Turner Enterprises, he owns 15 ranches in Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. 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).
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.
When Turner was 26, he entered sailing competitions at the Savannah Yacht Club and competed in Olympic trials in 1964. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated on July 4, 1977, after being chosen to lead the 1977 America's Cup defense as skipper of the yacht Courageous. 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. He was inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame in 1993, and the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2011.
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- 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
- Media Man: Ted Turner's Improbable Empire by Ken Auletta (W. W. Norton, 2004) ISBN 0-393-05168-4
- Clash of the Titans: How the Unbridled Ambition of Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch Has Created Global Empires that Control What We Read and Watch Each Day by Richard Hack (New Millennium Press, 2003) ISBN 1-893224-60-0
- Me and Ted Against the World: The Unauthorized Story of the Founding of CNN by Reese Schonfeld (HarperBusiness, 2001) 0060197463
- Ted Turner Speaks: Insights from the World's Greatest Maverick by Janet Lowe (Wiley, 1999) ISBN 0-471-34563-6
- Riding A White Horse: Ted Turner's Goodwill Games and Other Crusades by Althea Carlson (Episcopal Press, 1998) ISBN 0-9663743-0-4
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- Citizen Turner: The Wild Rise of an American Tycoon by Robert Goldberg and Gerald Jay Goldberg (Harcourt, 1995) ISBN 0-15-118008-3
- CNN: The Inside Story: How a Band of Mavericks Changed the Face of Television News by Hank Whittemore (Little Brown & Co, 1990) ISBN 0-316-93761-4
- Lead Follow or Get Out of the Way: The Story of Ted Turner by Christian Williams (Times Books, 1981) ISBN 0-8129-1004-4
- Atlanta Rising: The Invention of an International City 1946–1996 by Frederick Allen (Longstreet Press, 1996) ISBN 1-56352-296-9
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ted Turner.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Ted Turner|
- Official website
- Ted Turner collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Works by or about Ted Turner in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Ted Turner at the Internet Movie Database
- Ted Turner interview video at the Archive of American Television
- Turner on Oprah Master Class, aired January 29, 2012