Ted Turner is the founder of CNN, and a number of other TV channels. He took over his Dad’s small billboard business just as TV was emerging as a new technology. He sold off the billboard assets and started buying TV assets. He spotted an opportunity for a 24 hour news channel, which other channels thought was a bad idea. He built it into a huge business, and had other channels too, all as part of Turner Broadcasting Services.
He sold his company to Time Warner, and then had a ring-side seat as the internet took off in the 1990s. There was a sense of urgency within Time Warner that something digital had to be done: an internet strategy was required. There was a decision to sell Time Warner to AOL, which had a huge market cap at the time. Then the web 1.0 bubble burst, and the share price of AOL Time Warner tumbled.
Alongside his media career, Ted Turner was also a world champion sailor. Somehow he managed to find time, at the same time as founding CNN, to win the America’s Cup, and a number of other international sailing trophies.
His autobiography is also about his family. The pressures of work and sailing meant that he didn’t spend as much time with his children as he would have liked. His children provide their viewpoints during the book in excerpts.
Other people from Ted Turner’s business career have cameo roles in the book too, and they share their perspectives on Ted in excerpts. It’s good to see these alternative points of view, because sometimes their points of view differ from Ted’s. It’s an unusual technique in an autobiography to provide these candid excerpts from other people, especially when they disagree with you about something. It gives you the sense that you are a getting a better understanding of the situation.
Some themes about Ted Turner that struck me as I was reading the book were:
- Turner is skillful at presenting his point of view in a dispute. He provides some examples where customers or governments have objections to what he is doing. His responses to their arguments are compelling.
- Frequent and effective use of lawsuits. He seems to use bring lawsuits reasonably often against companies that he feels are overstepping a boundary, and the threat of the lawsuit brought the company’s behavior back into line.
- An ability to get things done. Turner fizzes with energy for doing things, and it sounds like he is also good at walking through walls.
Sales and negotiation
When he was getting one of his first local TV channels off the ground, the revenue came from advertising. Ted writes “We were also aggressive and creative when it came to ad sales and I personally went on a lot of calls. When potential advertisers criticized us for running old black and white shows when color TV was all the rage, we’d tell them that our black and white programming would help their color commercials pop out of the clutter. Others would say that since our shows were older and old-fashioned that our viewers were probably that way, too - not as smart and wealthy as the people watching our competition. I’d tell them they had it backward - our viewers were actually much smarter than our competitors’ because you had to be a genius to figure out how to pull down a UHF signal!”
Initially TV was broadcast over the air, and then people started developing cable technology. Turner writes “I saw that people were signing up for a new service to get local stations they were unable to tune in with their antenna and/or a better picture for stations they were already receiving.”
Turner decided to use cable to deliver his local programming to a wider geographical audience. Local TV operators didn’t like the idea of Ted Turner streaming his content into their territory. He writes “Back then, broadcasters saw cable operators as the enemy. For many years, local TV stations had a monopoly and they viewed cable operators with fear and suspicion. It was one thing when cable helped them improve their signals and get full penetration of their home markets, but quite another when they started importing distant stations. One time, the manager of a Florida station got angry when Channel 17 started coming into his area. He asked me to stay out of his territory and I replied, “What do you mean, ‘your territory’? If we can get our signal there, it’s our territory, too!” As far as I was concerned, our territory was the United States, and later the world!”
This happened again when Turner attempted to get national distribution for a local TV station he had. There were various kinds of licensing issues he had to deal with, about whether the licenses he had bought for his content allowed him to go national. Sports leagues didn’t like the idea for various reasons. Local broadcasters didn’t like the idea. About these negotiations, Turner writes “Washington became a primary battlefront and I started spending a lot of time there….When those testifying against me said that I was “stealing” their programming or encroaching on their territory, rather than defend my own position I would go on the attack. “If there are any real thieves here it’s ABC, NBC, and CBS!” I argued “They’re the ones who convinced the government to hand over incredibly valuable VHF licenses all over the country completely free of charge! They’ve used the public airwaves to make a fortune and never paid a dime for that right!” I’d go on to argue that no one would ever dream of letting a paper company cut timber on federal land or an oil company drill offshore without putting those rights up for bid. So why should TV companies get these rights for nothing? A free license might have made sense in the beginning when the business was just getting started but what about now, when these broadcasters were making millions? “When these licenses come up for renewal every three years, why not put them up for bid?” I asked. “These companies would probably fork over enough money to pay off the national debt!”
"When it came to the sports leagues I painted a picture that the owners basically sat around a table a long time ago and said "Okay, I’ll take New York, you get St. Louis, and the guy over there gets Chicago." They colluded to create local monopolies, I said "And I thought one of the roles of government was to regulate monopolies!" I asked legislators to imagine a world where the heads of Ford, GM and Chrysler sat down and the Ford guy says "I get everything east of the Mississippi. General Motors, you get west of the Mississipi, and Chrysler, you can have the state of Michigan. If we agree to this, we can eliminate competition and we can charge $10,000 for a car instead of $2,000, and we’ll make a lot more money!"
"Baseball’s commissioner, Bowie Kuhn, tried to counter by saying that the importation of games into other markets would disrupt things to the point where the league’s viability might even be threatened. "How is that possible?" I asked. "The owners are all millionaires, we’re paying millions to the players, and guess who gets left holding the bag - our fans!"… My overall theme in Washington was consistent. I was the underdog - an entrepreneur trying to compete in a world dominated by oligopolists."
The “don’t innovate in this industry because it will break everything and the whole system will stop working” card is probably a favorite of the incumbent. It has been used by lobbyists for the scientific journal publishers to try to persuade the US government to stop pushing open access. The argument is ‘don’t mess with the industry, because peer review is incredible, and if you interfere, the viability of peer review and the whole system is at stake.”
Turner also had trouble with Nielsen. He writes “Nielsen, the company that measures viewership of television stations, refused to document our audience outside Atlanta. They claimed it was prohibitively expensive for them to measure a channel whose distribution was so spotty across the country, but I was suspicious that their real motivation was to avoid upsetting their customer base - the broadcast networks and local stations that were our competition.” This made it hard to sell advertising, because advertisers used Nielsen for metrics about audience size.
Turner writes “Our lack of Nielsen ratings continued to hold us back, so I kept after them to add us to their service. It becomes increasingly clear that the only reason they were freezing us out was because of pressure from ABC, NBC, and CBS and I decided that my only option was to threaten a lawsuit. My argument was that Nielsen’s refusal to measure our networks amounted to anti-competitive behavior by them and the networks. Estimating that they were costing us $10 million a year in lost revenues, I said I would seek treble damages in the amount of $30 million. This got their attention and it wasn’t long before they came back and said they would work on a rating plan for us.”
The initial way that Ted Turner thought about getting national distribution for a TV network was via relaying signals from one transfer tower to another. Cable companies would take the signal from the transfer tower into the subscriber’s home. However, the transfer towers had to be no more than 25 miles apart, and they required a direct line of sight. It ended up being very expensive to build out infrastructure to send a signal just a few hundred miles.
Then Turner read about satellite technology in a magazine, and he discovered “that instead of using an antenna in Atlanta and hopping across microwave points through the Southeast, I could use one satellite “antenna” that’s 22,000 miles up in space and cover all of North America.” This was how he got his first TV station to go national - the “Superstation”.
When he was launching CNN, it was also going to be broadcast from satellite, direct to the cable operators. Cable operators had receiving equipment that could take the signal from the satellite, and then route it into people’s homes. The satellite company that Turner was working with for his first national station, Superstation, was RCA. RCA was going to put a new satellite in space, and Turner booked a slot in it for CNN. The advantage of this new satellite was that the cable operators could get the CNN signal without buying any new receiving hardware.
RCA then calls Turner up to say that the satellite launch had gone wrong. They had lost the satellite. They offered CNN a slot one of their other satellites, but this would involve cable operators buying a second receiver, at a cost of $100,000 apiece, and Turner believed they wouldn’t do that. He had already invested a lot of money in getting CNN off the ground, and he believed CNN was dead in the water if they couldn’t get a cost-effective satellite connection.
The only way forward was for CNN to get a slot on the same satellite that the Superstation was beaming from - SATCOM I. The problem was that there were many people who had been promised slots on the new satellite launch, SATCOM III, that had failed. And now they all wanted slots on SATCOM I.
Turner didn’t have much leverage with RCA, because Turner Broadcasting was a small company compared with RCA, which was a large conglomerate. Turner’s lawyers dug around in their legal agreements with RCA, and they eventually found something that gave them leverage. They had done a deal a few years before selling an “uplink facility” in Atlanta to RCA - a facility where you transmit the TV signal from the ground to the satellite. In that agreement RCA had agreed to offer Turner a right of first refusal whenever RCA allocated new satellite transponders. In the years since they had signed the agreement, RCA had overlooked this provision. While Turner would not have used the offers had they been made, technically RCA was in breach.
Turner went to RCA and said that he was going to sue them for the $30 million he had invested in starting CNN, and that he would take the case to the FCA, unless they got him a spot on the SATCOM I. He said “I also made the point that it probably wouldn’t look good to the regulators that RCA also happened to own NBC.”
Turner writes “We got their attention and left that meeting with the sense that the RCA people almost wanted us to sue them. Turns out that they were in a bind because we weren’t the only programmer with a SATCOM III slot who now wanted space on SATCOM I. Since they only had two openings available there, if they granted a transponder to CNN, they would have no logical or legal explanation as to why Turner was taken care of while the others were not. Of course, if a lawsuit from us would actually do them a favor, we were more than happy to oblige. Our legal team worked around the clock, and by the end of February, Turner Broadcasting sued for breach of contract. Within a week the court ordered an injunction. We were granted access to SATCOM I for the next six months, taking us beyond our June 1 1980 launch date. Then in April, the FCC weighed in and ordered this access period to be extended through December. While this didn’t give us all the security we would have liked we could move forward with our plans and we were confident that between April and December we would come up with a long-term solution.” Turner doesn’t mention the satellite issue again, so one assumes that the issue got resolved within this extra 12 month window they were granted.
CNN faced pushback from incumbents. He writes that they had some successes, but “despite these successes, we continued to confront institutional and competitive barriers that made our work difficult. In these early days, our crews were denied access to the White House pressroom and any other press pools organized to cover the president. We were told that only “the networks” (meaning ABC, NBC, and CBS) were allowed. When we responded, “But we are a network”, it fell on deaf ears. The broadcast networks had no interest in CNN joining their exclusive club and the White House press people had no incentive to change policy, either.
"CNN could not cover Washington politics adequately without access to the White House pressroom so we were forced to sue, and we went all the way to the top. In addition to ABC, NBC and CBS, we also named in our lawsuit President Ronald Reagan, White House press chief Larry Speakes, and Reagan’s chief of staff, James Baker. Our claim that CNN was unfairly being denied access placed the White House in a no-win situation. There was no way they could defend shutting out our journalists and once our case was made public, the issue was resolved in our favor."
CNN was gaining attention, and a rival network, ABC, announced plans launch two competing news channels, one modeled directly on CNN, and another would be slightly different: an 18 minute “wheel” of news stories that would update and repeat throughout the day. The competitive threat was that these services would be offered for free. CNN at this point was monetized via the cable operators paying a license fee for CNN, which they would then recoup from their subscribers. ABC’s idea was that their scale would mean that they could cover their costs with advertising, and they wouldn’t need to charge license fees.
Turner’s response was to create CNN2, which was modeled on this new wheel concept of updating headlines throughout the day. Furthermore, CNN2 would be offered for free to cable operators who subscribed to CNN. He didn’t like the idea of dropping the price for CNN, as they had invested $100 million in CNN and still weren’t breaking even. They decided to launch CNN2 six months before ABC’s news channels were going to launch, to steal some of ABC’s thunder.
Turner also had a lawsuit strategy to fend off the competitive threat. He writes “Another welcome opportunity presented itself in the form of a boast from an ABC executive shortly after their launch announcement. He told a newspaper reporter that this was going to be like General Motors going after Studebaker, and was quoted saying something to the effect of “we have deep pockets and Turner doesn’t.” This comment, coupled with the fact that they were coming after us with well below-market prices, gave us a great case to accuse them of predatory behavior in violation of anti-trust laws. This would be no small deal - in anti-trust cases the aggrieved party can sue for treble damages, and since our CNN investment to date was upward of $100 million, we could sue for $300 million. Their executives claimed publicly that this threat didn’t concern them, but privately we knew they were worried.
The fact that CNN2 had launched meant that ABC’s competing channel now had to split the market for a headline service, and they hadn’t anticipated this in their business plan. A few months after CNN2 launched, ABC decided to delay the launch of of their channel, and Turner heard that they might be willing to settle the anti-trust claim. ABC met with Turner and said that they would be willing to exit the news business if Turner paid them $25 million. Turner decided that the fight with ABC was costing them $4 million a month, but Turner decided that it made sense to pay the $25 million. Turner said that it was thirteen years before they faced another twenty four hour news channel.
Getting Things Done
Turner would do whatever it takes to solve the problem at hand. Just as he was getting into the TV business, he bought a station that looked good on the surface, but turned out after the acquisition to be in poor financial shape. It got to the point where they were struggling to pay their suppliers.
Turner writes “When we were beginning to get desperate, Sid Pike, who was running station operations in Atlanta, came to me with an idea. He suggested we go on the air with a telethon but instead of raising money for a charity we’d ask for viewers’ pledges to save our station. I thought it was worth trying and since we didn’t have any better ideas we gave it a shot. All weekend we ran movies but instead of putting ads on during the breaks, I’d come on and tell people that if they wanted us to stay on the air, we needed their help in the form of a direct cash loan. I’d say things like ‘By the rules of business, we’re failing, but before we go off the air we’re asking for your support. We air about three thousand movies a year, so it’s probably worth a few of your dollars to keep us afloat.” Well, the money started rolling in. Little kids brought in their piggy banks and we had policemen and firemen come on the air and tell us why they felt the need to give. It was a lot of fun and when all was said and done, we raised about $25,000 and generated tremendous goodwill in the community. (By the way, we kept receipts for every donor for whom we had a record and we we turned the corner three years later we paid every single one back with interest - $4 for every $3 borrowed - about a 10 percent annual return.)
When Turner was looking into getting the Superstation launched, his first satellite-powered national channel, he went to RCA with his idea. RCA told him that there was a major problem with his idea: any broadcaster would need an uplink station, to beam the signal to the satellite, and the uplink stations only existed in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles - not down in Atlanta where Turner was based. Moreover, RCA said that no-one was planning to build an uplink station in Atlanta for several years. Turner writes “I thought that one over and said ‘Well, what would prevent us from building one?’ They had never considered this option but could see no obstacle other than the expense: about $750,000. I asked them if there was anyone in Georgia who could build one for me and they suggested I contact a company named Scientific Atlanta.” Turner used this company to build an uplink station in Atlanta and he solved this particular problem.
Direct response ads
Before Turner had national reach, he had a regional station: bigger than local, thanks to cable, but not yet national. Turner writes “Adding new viewers via microwave and cable did not help us generate much incremental advertising revenue. When we spoke to media buyers outside Atlanta, all they wanted was ABC, NBC and CBS. They were used to making two different buys - local and national - and a regional outlet like ours didn’t fit into their plans. We quickly concluded that the only way to generate revenue from our expanded audience was through direct response ads - the ones that sell the latest record compilation or steak knives and end with a phone number to call to purchase the products.
"…The best products to sell via direct response are unique little gadgets and gizmos whose producers have trouble getting retail distribution. This allows you to call them "Exclusive TV Offers!" and say things like "Not Available in Stores!" We managed to find all kinds: super glue, steak knives, and vinyl repair kits, among others. Since most of these companies couldn’t afford it, we often produced the TV commercials ourselves, and in some cases the products and the ad were pretty amateurish…. The ads and the products may have been silly but we did manage to sell a lot of merchandise. Direct response revenue would prove to be vital for us while we worked to convince traditional advertisers that we were worth considering."
When Turner was starting his regional and national stations, he bumped up against a number of barriers: legal, regulatory, technological. In one of the excerpts in the book, John Malone, a major cable operator, writes “Ted doesn’t care about the obstacles in his way, and that was classic Ted. Ted asks himself the question, “If a rule doesn’t let me do something that’s so logical, it must be a bad rule. And if it’s a bad rule I ought to be able to change it or it should just go away.” He’s always had that kind of basic, almost childish, logic about him that refuses to accept artificial impediments. I think one of his big secrets of success over the years is that the things that most of us would sit there and ponder - all these regulatory and legal reasons why it might not be something you could do - Ted would just say, “Oh, hell, you can overcome those kinds of things,” and he’d just go do it.”
In order to fund the launch of CNN, Turner decided to sell one of his existing TV stations, WRET. He found a buyer and a del was reached to buy WRET for $20 million. Just after he had successfully sued RCA to solve the satellite issue, the WRET deal got held up, meaning Turner didn’t have the cash he needed for CNN. Turner writes “our station manager in Charlotte and gotten into a dispute with representatives of a local African American group called the Charlotte Coalition. They had been lobbying the station for more minority employment and the airing of more minority-related programming. And instead of being respectful and listening to their concerns, our manager got into a fight with them and ordered them out of his office. Following this shabby treatment, they filed a lawsuit against the station. The FCC was very attentive to potential issues of discrimination, and this claim was sure to hold up our license transfer.
"Without this sale and the $20 million in proceeds, we were in big trouble. As this dispute dragged on we were forced to take out a $20 million loan at 25 percent interest, requiring us to make $400,000 interest payments every month.
"…In difficult situations like this, I try to be as straightforward as possible. I made it clear that I agreed that our manager had been in the wrong and as president of the company I took responsibility for his lousy judgement.
"…At one point in the negotiations I actually got down on the floor on my hands and knees and begged for forgiveness. I clasped my hands together and said "You gotta let me sell this station or I’m a goner! Somehow, between Hank Aaron’s support [a friend of Turner who was well respected in the black community] and my demonstration of genuine contrition, we got the negotiations back on track and worked out a deal. They would drop the lawsuit if I agreed to make a certain level of donations to the United Negro College Fund and some other worthy causes they supported. With the lawsuit resolved, our license transfer was approved, and we completed our $20 million sale of WRET."
Ted Turner rushed into his first marriage. He didn’t think that much about who he was marrying, and they quickly fell out of love, if they were ever in love. They did have two children before getting divorced. The children went to live with their mother, but her new husband, who was an alcoholic, started physically beating them, so the children moved in with their father, who by this time had a second wife, and some more children.
It was a complicated situation. Ted Turner was never at home because he was working and sailing all the time. His second wife suddenly had to bring up two children from the first marriage as well as her own three children. She didn’t like the situation and the children from the first marriage ended up eating dinner in the basement, separate from the rest of the family.
One of the children from the first marriage writes in the book about Janie, Ted’s second wife “Janie really was not happy. First of all, my father was off sailing and he’d come home with his dirty laundry and as soon as things were clean he was off again. She was pregnant and now his kids from a former marriage were being shoved on her. Janie was trying but this was more than she bargained for and she couldn’t stand the situation. After all these years Janie and I have not become best of friends but back then she really couldn’t stand us. My brother Teddy and I spent a lot of time down in the basement with Jimmy Brown and with my dad being away so much, he became like a surrogate father for us.”
It must be difficult to transition from being treated badly as a child by your stepmother, to now being ‘best of friends’.
Ted Turner writes “Janie did her best to manage a household of five young kids but it was a struggle. She never embraced the idea of caring for Teddy and Laura and their unequal treatment continued. As the stepchildren, they would often spend mealtimes down in the basement with Jimmy Brown, eating different food than their half siblings enjoyed upstairs.”
The other child from the first marriage, writes “Dad was gone a good bit between sailing and work but I don’t really think anybody holds it against him because ultimately he was very successful in both. It’s not like he wasn’t around because he didn’t want to be there - as a kid that would really upset you - that wasn’t what he grew up with and he was away doing big things. We were proud of him doing it and were very happy when he was around…. Dad makes the most of every moment… With Dad, when it was a weekend or vacation the term was “maximum fun”. His view was that if you didn’t get it all in you’ve wasted time and haven’t had your maximum fun.”
Turner writes “One of the reasons I liked military schools was I wanted my boys to be tough and self-sufficient. I also tried to set a personal example for all my children when it came to hard work and appreciating the value of hard-earned money. My kids obviously saw the hours I put in at the office and at the height of my wealth I still drove around Atlanta in a Ford Taurus and bought my clothes off the rack. In fact, I was so thrifty that someone at the company once said “Ted Turner could squeeze Lincoln off a penny.”
One of Ted’s sons writes “I remember we would go duck hunting in South Carolina in December and January and my dad would drive us out in his Jeep. It had a cover and heating, but instead of using either of those Dad kept the top off and the windshield straight down. We had our jackets and warm clothes on but it was still really cold and he’s up there shivering while he’s driving the car and Beau and I are sitting there freezing, thinking, “Jeez, can’t he at least put the windshield up?” I never understood why he did this until finally, several years ago, I asked him. I said ‘Dad, when we were down at Hope Plantation I don’t understand why you drove that Jeep with the top and the windshield down. Remember? You’d be freezing, with snot going down your mustache and gloves; you could hardly hold onto the steering wheel.’ He said ‘Son, I didn’t do that for me. I did that for you guys. I was working on making you tough.”
Another of Ted’s sons writes “Dad was always very plain with all of us: “After your graduation you have two weeks and your stuff better be out of my house.” He was never into handouts. When I was in college I had a $25 allowance and I was traveling all over the country with The Citadel sailing team on an annual budget of less than $1,500. I learned how to live very frugally, thanks to Dad.”
Onset of new technology
Ted Turner describes his first exposure to the nascent TV industry “I noticed an ad on one of our billboards for a UHF TV station called WJRJ, Channel 17. I wasn’t following the television business back then - to be honest, I didn’t even watch much TV. I remember having to ask someone what UHF stood for. (“Ultra High Frequency” was the answer). Still, this business intrigued me.”
Turner describes his first exposure to the internet. By this time he had sold his company to Time Warner, and he was working there, reporting to the CEO, Jerry Levin. He writes “Jerry Levin didn’t just want Time Warner to be big, he wanted it to be great, and in the late 1990s, it seemed like the great new businesses were being created on the Internet. I first started paying attention to the Internet when I heard references to “dot-coms” in sales reports from our cable networks. CNN and our entertainment channels were enjoying tremendous growth in ad sales during the mid- to late 1990s and an increasing percentage of that money came from dot-coms. Some of these new startups raised large amounts of capital at high valuations and then spent a lot of that money on traditional media outlets like television, radio and print. As investors poured their resources into online companies they turned their noses up at the older conglomerates like Time Warner. It was a strange time. I’d had to work hard for years to build Turner Broadcasting into a company that investors would value, and now these online entrepreneurs were raising millions of dollars almost out of thin air. After years of blazing trails, it felt odd to find myself at a company that was considered to be “old media”.
"…In the late 1990s, if you didn’t think that most of your future was going online, it was hard to get anyone’s attention, including Jerry’s. He was obsessed with formulating an Internet strategy for Time Warner that would be, as he described it, "transformational".
At a recent TED talk, Larry Page said something interesting “I looked at lots of companies and why I thought they don’t succeed over time…And I said, what did they fundamentally do wrong? What did those companies all do wrong? And usually it’s just that they missed the future.”
One of the reasons Blockbuster failed was that it missed the future. So Jerry Levin was thinking along the right lines when he was obsessed about formulating an internet strategy.
The Time Warner AOL merger
Turner writes “By 1999, Time Warner was taking flak from investors and the press for not being more successful on the Internet - for neither making any bold acquisitions nor creating any successful online businesses of our own. After a run-up in Time Warner stock for the first few years after the Turner merger, our shares were no longer in favor.”
The AOL deal was rapidly put together. Turner writes “January 3, 2000, was a Monday. The world was discovering that Y2k had come and gone without a major disaster, and I was in Big Sur, California, trying to relax. Unbeknownst to me, back in New York and Virginia, conversations had resumed between Jerry Levin and Steve Case of AOL. Apparently, over the holidays, Jerry had decided that this was the deal he wanted to do. They agreed to terms on Thursday night over dinner at Case’s house and on Friday, January 7, Jerry called me to tell me that we had a deal. We were merging with AOL… This would be a $160 billion transaction - the biggest corporate merger ever.”
Turner describes the board meeting where the deal was ratified “The board session lasted almost seven hours. With big deals like this one, it’s customary for the board to listen to lengthy presentations and hear recommendations from investment bankers, and this case, the people from Morgan Stanley made a forceful case for why this was a great deal for Time Warner shareholders. According to the transaction’s supporters, this would be the ultimate combination. They said that Time Warner, with all its valuable “old media” assets, would be “turbo-charged” by this merger with AOL, one of the fastest growing and most well-respected “new media” companies.
"…Everyone agreed that this would put AOL Time Warner out in front of our competitors. We’d be the biggest, most diversified, and most formidable company in the media industry. So when we voted, we were unanimous and I signed the document voting my shares irrevocably."
The news of the merger sent the share price up, and Turner’s net worth increased from $2 to $10 billion. Then the web 1.0 bubble crashed, and the stock price of AOL Time Warner fell. Turner is now worth $2 billion. There is a rather amusing video where Turner talks about the difference between someone like Buffett and someone like him ‘who is only worth a billion or so”
Turner writes “Murdoch was not someone with whom I wanted to do business. Seeing the way he used his newspapers to advance his personal political agenda really bothered me. I certainly encouraged our networks to air programming about issues I considered important, like the environment and overpopulation, but Murdoch specifically supported or tore down individual political candidates through his publications, particularly in Europe. We had worked very hard to establish CNN as an impartial outlet with the highest journalistic standards.”
I admire Murdoch’s business acumen and prowess, but this objection seems absolutely right to me. It does seem amazing that the market has allowed one unelected person to have such disproportionate influence on the politics of a country.
Ted Turner’s father grew up poor and then built up a billboard business that allowed him to be comfortable. Achieving wealth had been a goal of Turner’s father, and after he achieved a level of comfort, he struggled to come up with a plan for the rest of his life.
Turner writes “He told me something that I have never forgotten. He said “Son, you be sure to set your goals so high that you can’t possibly accomplish them in one lifetime. That way you’ll always have something ahead of you. I made the mistake of setting my goals too low and now I’m having a hard time coming up with new ones.”