Turner, Ted

Turner, Ted
orig. Robert Edward Turner, III

born Nov. 19, 1938, Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.

U.S. broadcasting entrepreneur.

He took over his father's Atlanta-based advertising firm after the latter's 1963 suicide and restored it to profitability. In 1970 he bought the Atlanta television station WJRJ (later WTBS), which in 1975 became the superstation of the Turner Broadcasting System, broadcasting via satellite to cable systems nationwide. An avid sportsman, he purchased professional baseball and basketball franchises in Atlanta, and in 1977 he piloted his yacht, Courageous, to victory in the America's Cup race. He expanded his broadcasting empire with the 1980 launch of the Cable News Network (CNN) and the 1986 purchase of MGM/UA Entertainment (MGM) and its library of more than 4,000 movies. He married Jane Fonda in 1991 (divorced 2001). In 1996 he merged his broadcasting system with Time Warner and became its vice-chairman (see AOL Time Warner). In 2003 he resigned as vice-chairman of AOL Time Warner.

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▪ 1996

      Ted Turner once commented, "I am the right man in the right place at the right time." That statement could not have been more true than in September 1995, when it was announced that Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. (with 1994 revenues of nearly $3 billion), would merge with Time Warner, Inc. The deal, with a value of at least $7 billion, would make Turner the new vice-chairman of Time Warner and was expected to earn him more than $100 million over the next five years and more than $2.5 billion in Time Warner stock.

      Robert Edward Turner III was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Nov. 19, 1938. When he was nine years old, his father moved the family to Georgia and began the Turner Advertising Co. Young Turner later attended Brown University, Providence, R.I., where he was commodore of the school yachting club and vice president of the debating union. After his father's suicide in 1963, he took over the company. In 1970 he bought a small independent Atlanta television station (WJRJ, which later became WTBS), making it the flagship of the fledgling Turner Broadcasting System. In 1976 WTBS began beaming via satellite to cable systems nationwide and was dubbed the first "superstation," reaching some two million households. (As of October 1995 the station boasted an audience of nearly 67 million.) That same year, Turner purchased the Atlanta Braves baseball team. He took time off to pursue an old interest—yachting—and in September 1977 skippered Courageous to victory in the America's Cup.

      In June 1980 Turner launched his biggest risk (and biggest success) to date—the Cable News Network (CNN). With its in-depth, 24-hour, all-news format and worldwide broadcasting capabilities, CNN prospered as the first station that provided instantaneous coverage of any event worldwide, including live coverage of the Persian Gulf War.

      Not all of Turner's ventures proved successful. In the mid-1980s he made an unsuccessful bid for the CBS television network in an attempted hostile takeover that cost him $20 million. He later acquired the MGM Entertainment Co., although analysts said he overpaid by nearly half a billion dollars. In an effort to widen the appeal of the MGM film library, Turner had many of its black-and-white films electronically colourized, a move he defended against considerable criticism.

      Many wondered if Turner, who had accomplished so much and had been completely in charge over the years, would be content playing second fiddle at Time Warner. Turner rejoined, "I've been a CEO for 33 years and that's a long time for anyone. I'm married to Jane Fonda, so I know what it's like to be number two." (ANTHONY L. GREEN)

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▪ American entrepreneur
byname of  Robert Edward Turner III 
born November 19, 1938, Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.

      broadcasting entrepreneur and sportsman who became a major figure in American business in the late 20th century.

      Turner attended but did not graduate from Brown University. After stints as an account executive for the billboard-advertising company owned by his father and based in Atlanta, Georgia, Turner became the general manager of one of the company's branch offices in 1960. Following his father's death in 1963, Turner took over the ailing family business and restored it to profitability.

      In 1970 he purchased a financially troubled UHF television station in Atlanta, and within three years he had made it one of the few truly profitable independent stations in the United States. In 1975 Turner's company was one of the first to use a new communications satellite to broadcast his station (later renamed WTBS, or TBS, the Turner Broadcasting System) to a nationwide cable television audience, thereby greatly increasing revenues. Turner went on to create two other highly successful and innovative cable television networks: CNN ( Cable News Network; 1980) and TNT (Turner Network Television; 1988). He also purchased the Atlanta Braves major league baseball team in 1976 and the Atlanta Hawks professional basketball team in 1977. In 1986 he bought the MGM/UA Entertainment Company, which included the former Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion-picture studio and its library of more than 4,000 films. Turner set off a storm of protest from the film community and film critics when he authorized the “colourizing” of some of the library's black-and-white motion pictures.

      The large debt burden sustained from his MGM and other purchases compelled Turner to subsequently sell off not only MGM/UA but also a sizable share of the Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., though he retained control of it. He also kept ownership of the MGM film library, which included many Hollywood classics. In 1986 he founded the Goodwill Games in the hope of easing Cold War tensions through friendly athletic competition. The Games were terminated after 2001. He married actress Jane Fonda (Fonda, Jane) in 1991; they divorced in 2001.

      Turner resumed the expansion of his media empire in the 1990s with the creation of the Cartoon Network (1992) and the purchase (1993) of two motion-picture production companies, New Line Cinema and Castle Rock Entertainment. In 1996 the media giant Time Warner Inc. acquired the Turner Broadcasting System for $7.5 billion. As part of the agreement, Turner became a vice-chairman of Time Warner and headed all of the merged company's cable television networks. When Time Warner merged with Internet company AOL, Turner became vice-chairman and senior adviser of AOL Time Warner Inc. (Time Warner Inc.) In 2003 he resigned as vice-chairman of AOL Time Warner.

      Turner was also a noted yachtsman who piloted Courageous to win the America's Cup in 1977.

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Universalium. 2010.

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