Ted Turner (1938 -)
Ted Turner is a broadcasting entrepreneur, philanthropist, and sports enthusiast that created and developed some of the most profitable broadcasting and television networks in media history – TBS (Turner Broadcasting System), CNN (Cable News Network), and TNT (Turner Network Television). Based out of Atlanta, Georgia, he also capitalized on his love of sports by buying both the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Hawks, two professional sports teams, piloting professional yachting teams, and founding the Goodwill Games.
Ted Turner was born Robert Edward Turner III on November 19, 1938, in Cincinnati, Ohio. His father, a billboard magnate, moved the family to Savanna, Georgia, when Ted was nine. Coming from a wealthy family, Ted was sent to a boy’s prep school in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which groomed him for college at Brown University. At college, he devoted a lot of his time to the debate and sailing teams, as well as his fraternity. Unfortunately, he was expelled from Brown University for having a female student in his dorm room.
After Ted left Brown University, he moved back to Georgia and settled in Macon, where he ran a branch of his fathers advertising business. Following his fathers 1963 suicide, Ted became the president and chief executive of the company, Turner Advertising Company, at age 24. He took the already successful advertising firm, and turned it into a global enterprise. Soon, Turner Advertising Company became the largest advertising company in the South, and Ted used the profits to purchase radio stations. In 1969, Ted sold several of the stations to buy a failing television station in Atlanta, Georgia, which he gave the call sign WTCG. The station initially showed old movies and cartoons, as well as third hand syndicated shows from larger networks. In 1973, WTCG won the rights to broadcast Atlanta Braves baseball games. Piggybacking on the success of larger cable-based stations, Teds satellite broadcasting network was heavily used to fill time slots and channels on the cable stations, which dramatically increased his company’s viewers and advertising, and his station eventually reached two million viewers, which made him worth $100 million at the time. WTCG was renamed WTBS after Ted was able to buy the call sign from a student radio station at MIT college, which let Ted strengthen the brand of his blossoming “Super-Station”, TBS (Turner Broadcasting Station).
Not content with merely broadcasting sporting events, Ted bought the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks in 1976. This not only gave him broadcasting rights over his own teams appearances, but it allowed him to use TBS to make the Atlanta Braves a household name wherever his station was carried, which at the time, was already in almost every home in America. Following the success of his sporting/broadcasting monopoly, Ted created the Goodwill Games as a way for TBS to provide Olympic style sporting events on television, which was previously only offered by one of the three major television networks.
CNN (Cable News Network) was created by Ted in 1980, and was meant to fulfill his vision of the worlds first 24 hour news network, promising to report on the worlds events until the proverbial “end of the world”. In an effort to expand from television and broadcasting to movies and production, Ted bought the film studio MGM/UA (Metro-Goldwin Mayer/United Artists) Entertainment Company in 1986. This acquisition put Ted severely in debt, and he was forced to turn around and sell major parts of MGM/UA back to the original owner, but Ted kept the rights to everything produced by the two merged studios prior to the 1986 acquisition. Using a great deal of the footage he still owned from MGM/UA, Ted created TNT (Turner Network Television), Turner Classic Movies, and the Cartoon Network. In 1996, TBS merged with Time Warner, Inc. where Ted served as vice chairman of Time Warner and headed up the company’s cable network division. Time Warner eventually merged with Internet provider AOL. Following the dot-com bust in the late 90’s, AOL pulled Time Warner’s stock down, which prompted Ted to act hostile towards Time Warner’s CEO and board, prompting his forced resignation in 2002. All together, it is estimated that Ted lost as much as $7 billion dollars in the failed merger. Ted continues to own and operate CNN and other television stations, and continues to use his media outlets to serve as a megaphone for his opinions on politics, healthcare, foreign policy, and sports.
– Ron LaPoint