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

Turner's media empire began with his father's billboard business, which he took over at 24 after his father's suicide. The business, Turner Outdoor Advertising, was worth $1 million when Turner took it over in 1963. Purchase of an Atlantamarker 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.

Turner's penchant for controversial statements earned him the nickname "The Mouth of the South".

In addition to donations, Turner has devoted his assets to environmentalism and capitalism. He owns more land than any other American and uses much of it 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 animated series Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Turner was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame on April 26, 2007.

Early life

Turner was born in Cincinnati, Ohiomarker, the son of Florence (née Rooney) and Robert Edward Turner II, a billboard magnate. When he was nine, his family moved to Savannah, Georgiamarker. He attended The McCallie School, a private, boys' preparatory school in Chattanooga, Tennesseemarker. Turner attended Brown Universitymarker and was vice-president of the Brown Debating Union. 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 he was expelled before receiving a diploma for having a female student in his dormitory room.


Turner entered sailing competitions when he was 11, at the Savannah Yacht Club, and competed in Olympic trials in 1964. In 1977, he successfully defended the America's Cup for the United Statesmarker as skipper of the yacht Courageous.In the 1979 Fastnet racemarker, in a storm that killed participants, he skippered Tenacious to a corrected-time victory. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated on 4 July 1977 after winning the qualifying to lead the 1977 America's Cup defense and he was inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame in 1993.


Turner once called observers of Ash Wednesday "Jesus freaks", though he apologized, and dubbed pro-choice opponents "bozos."

In 2008, Turner explained he not only regretted these statements but said he had made peace with organized religion and had joined with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and the United Methodist Church to fight malaria.

Turner caused a stir in Montanamarker 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 fish in the stream.

In 2008, Turner also received attention when he asserted on PBS's Charlie Rose television program that if steps aren't taken to address global warming, "Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals." Turner also said he advocated drastically cutting the U.S. military budget and Americans having no more than 2 children in the interview.

Business activities


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 because "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, which “had virtual monopolies in Savannah, Macon, Columbus, and Charleston” and was “the largest outdoor advertising company in the Southeast,” according to "It Ain’t As Easy As It Looks", prospered. 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 and TV stations.

In 1975, after the FCC allowed Turner’s WTCG-TV-Channel 17 in Atlanta to use a satellite on December 27, 1976 to broadcast old movies, situation comedy reruns, cartoons, and sport nationwide to cable-TV subscribers, WTCG-TV Super-Station (later WTBS) was reaching two million subscribers and Turner was worth $100 million. He bought a plantation in Jacksonboro, South Carolina for $2 million.

As cable systems developed, many carried his stations to free their schedules. This increased his viewers and advertising.He bought the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks in 1976 partially to provide programming for WTBS. For most of his first decade as owner of the Braves, Turner was a very hands-on owner. In 1977, he sent manager Dave Bristol on a "scouting trip" so he could manage the team himself. However, he only ran the team for one game (a loss) before National League president Chub Feeney told him that managers are not allowed to own financial interest in their club. He said, "Managing isn't that difficult; you just have to score more runs than the other guy". However, in the mid-1980s Turner began leaving day-to-day operations in the hands of the baseball operations staff.

Turner made the Braves a household name even before their run of success in the 1990s and early 2000s. He used WTBS' superstation status to beam Braves games into nearly every home in North America. 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. However, that didn't last long, as Feeney ordered him to scrap the promotion.

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

Turner founded the Goodwill Games in 1986.


Turner created CNN 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... and when the end of the world comes, 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 Centermarker.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. Turner was instrumental in the revival of Atlanta's downtown.

In 1984, Turner launched Cable Music Channel, competition to MTV. The channel was short-lived, but helped mold and launch the original but now changed format of VH1.


After a failed attempt to acquire CBS, Turner purchased the film studio MGM/UA Entertainment Co. from Kirk Kerkorian in 1986 for $1.5 billion. Following the acquisition, Turner had an enormous debt and sold parts of the acquisition. MGM/UA Entertainment was sold back to Kirk Kerkorian. The MGM/UA Studio lot in Culver Citymarker was sold to Lorimar/Telepictures. Turner kept MGM/UA's pre-1986 and pre-merger film and TV library, which included nearly all of MGM/UA'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 RKO Radio Pictures library, and the pre-1950 Warner Bros. library that was once the property of Associated Artists Productions, which merged with UA Television in 1958).


Turner used these to add cable channels. In 1988, he introduced Turner Network Television (TNT) with Gone with the Wind. TNT, initially older movies and television shows, added original programs and newer reruns. Since launch in 1994, Turner Classic Movies broadcast the older Warner Bros, RKO, and MGM libraries. TNT used World Championship Wrestling (WCW) to attract a broader audience.

In 1992, the MGM library, which included Warner Brothers properties including the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies libraries, became the core of Cartoon Network. Turner's companies purchased Hanna-Barbera Productions, adding additional content. With the 1996 Time Warner merger, the channel's archives gained the post-1948 Warner Bros. cartoon library.

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.

Turner Entertainment

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

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

Turner Foundation

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


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's cable networks division. On January 11, 2001 Time Warner merged with AOL as AOL Time Warner. The company has since dropped "AOL" from its name.

Turner was vice-chairman and Time Warner's biggest stock holder. It is estimated he lost as much as $7 billion when the stock collapsed in the wake of the merger. He stepped down as vice chairman in 2006. Asked about buying back his former assets, he replies that he can't afford them now.


In 1991, Turner became the first media figure to be named Time magazine's Man of the Year.

He is America's largest private landowner, owning approximately two million acres (8,000 km²), greater than the land areas of Delawaremarker and Rhode Islandmarker combined. According to documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, Turner's land has a higher gross domestic product than Belizemarker. He has the largest private bison herd, with 50,000 head. In 2002, Turner co-founded Ted's Montana Grill, a burger 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.

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

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. He is also a recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Gold Medal for Humanitarianism.

In 2006 Turner received the Bower Award for Business Leadership from The Franklin Institutemarker.


On 19 September 2006, Turner said in a Reuters Newsmaker conference, of Iranmarker's nuclear position: "They're a sovereign state. We have 28,000. Why can't they have 10? We don't say anything about Israelmarker — they've got 100 of them approximately — or Indiamarker or Pakistanmarker or Russiamarker." He facetiously advocated banning men from public office: "Men should be barred from public office for 100 years in every part of the world... The men have had millions of years where we've been running things. We've screwed it up hopelessly. Let's give it to the women."

A proponent of Obama’s healthcare bill, Turner has said: “We’re the only first world country that doesn’t have universal healthcare and it’s a disgrace.”

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.”


In 2008, Turner wrote Call Me Ted, which documents his career and personal life.

Personal life

Turner married twice before marrying and divorcing Jane Fonda (1991 to 2001). His first marriage to Judy Nye lasted 1960 to 1964. His second, to Jane Shirley Smith, lasted over 22 years (1965 to 1988). He has five children. His main home is the Flying D Ranch, outside Bozeman, Montanamarker.

Through Turner Enterprises, he owns 15 ranches in Kansasmarker, Montanamarker, Nebraskamarker, New Mexicomarker, Oklahomamarker, and South Dakotamarker. Totaling , his US land-holdings make Turner the largest individual landowner in North America (by acres)., According to his Ted's Montana Grill website, "Turner Enterprises' mission is to manage Turner lands in an economically sustainable and ecologically sensitive manner, while conserving native species."

Turner's biggest ranch is Vermejo Park Ranchmarker in New Mexico, at , it is the largest privately owned, contiguous tract of land in the United Statesmarker.

Turner sponsors the Public forum debate of the National Forensic League. Every year, he speaks at the National Forensic League's National Speech and Debate Tournament.

Cultural influence

In 2009, the band Inkwell created a song called "Ted Turner Would Love It" on their album.

See also


Further reading

  • Call Me Ted by Ted Turner and Bill Burke (Grand Central Publishing, 2008) ISBN 978-0-44658-189-9
  • Racing Edge by Ted Turner (Simon & Schuster, 1979) ISBN 0-671-24419-1
  • Biographies:
    • 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
    • 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

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