R.E. Ted Turner
President, Turner Enterprises, Inc.
Ted assumed leadership of the family company (outdoor advertising) when his father committed suicide over the company's financial situation when Ted was 24. With uncanny business acumen, Ted acquired an independent UHF television station (WJRJ, Channel 17) in Atlanta in 1970. In 1976, he originated the superstation concept by transmitting the station's signal via satellite to cable systems across the country, initially using the call letters WTCG (Watch This Channel Grow). (He had to set up a separate company, Southern Satellite Systems, to lease the transponder on Satcom 1, which Ed Taylor purchased for $1.00 after all his friends turned him down.)
He diversified the company by purchasing the Major League Atlanta Braves Baseball team in 1970 and acquired a limited partnership in the Atlanta Hawks NBA Basketball team in 1971. The teams have prospered under his ownership.
He inaugurated CNN, the world's first live, in-dept, 24-hour, all-news channel. Headline News, which began in 1982, offers updated newscasts every half-hour. CNN International went on the air in 1985. CNN was initially disdained, especially by broadcasters who spend much more on their news organizations, but gained stature in the 1991 Gulf War when it was the only news source from Baghdad.
He purchased the MGM Entertainment Company with 3,300 feature films and motion picture and television businesses in 1986. He divested much of MGM and formed Turner Entertainment Co. to manage the remaining assets, mostly the library of film and television properties, which provides the base for TNT. He acquired the rights to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, including their 3,000 episode library in 1991 and used the cartoon library of Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo and the Jetsons to launch the Cartoon Network in 1993. He acquired Castle Rock Entertainment in 1993, and merged with New Line Cinema in 1994. Turner Classic Movies started in 1994. He expanded the news division in 1995 with CNN-fn-the financial network.
Although the Russian Parliament is considering laws that would restrict foreign ownership of the media – a move that could shift the stakes in the battle for control of NTV – R.E. Ted Turner and his group of investors (including George Soros) have reached an agreement to buy a 30 percent stake in NTV from Vladimir Gusinsky. Gusinsky, fighting extradition from Spain on fraud charges he says are part of the clampdown on his media outlets, has tried to attract international investment in NTV. CNN quoted a source as saying Turner and Gusinsky had clinched an outline deal. Gusinsky's Media-Most holding company said it had no information. The Washington Post cited sources as saying the deal was worth $225 million. Turner is now trying to convince Gazprom, which is 38-percent owned by the Russian government, to approve the deal. The deal is independent of AOL Time Warner. Some consider this move as a part of his growing philanthropic zeal, in regards to his interests in protecting free speech, rather than another savvy business move. (As of 4/13/01) In related news, Rupert Murdoch is considering a move on NTV himself that could elbow aside Ted's plans. (4/10/01)
Turner founded the Goodwill Games in 1985 in an attempt to ease Cold War tensions by conducting an international sports competition that included teams from the US and Soviet Union in the wake of the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games and subsequent Soviet boycott of the 1984 games in Los Angeles. It was both a publicity stunt and a genuinely intended contribution to world peace.