Thursday, April 15, 2010

Call Me Ted

Call Me Ted
by Ted Turner with Bill Burke

(Grand Central Publishing / 0-446-58189-5 / 978-0-446-58189-9 / November 2008 / 448 pages / $30 hardcover / $11.70 Amazon / $11.55 paperback)

Call Me Ted is the best autobiography I have ever read. Of course there are many reasons for this opinion that have little to do with the quality of the composition, but I shall get to those in a minute. As a fan of Ted the businessman since he launched WTBS in the mid-‘70’s as the first satellite-powered cable station, I was eagerly looking forward to the release of this book, and I was not disappointed with any element of it. From the traditional layout of the birth, childhood, rise, and aftermath storyline to the passages written by Ted’s associates and inserted into the appropriate points within the autobiographical text, Call Me Ted is a five-star success. Harrold Robbins could not have made up a better or more topical fictional story!

Ted Turner was not born chewing on a silver spoon, nor was he in any manner coddled or spoiled throughout his childhood or young adulthood. His father instilled a powerful work ethic, sent Ted to military school, and drove young Ted toward a disciplined diligence. There were many stressful family issues involved in young Ted’s life, too, but the real action began when his dad committed suicide and thrust Ted into the family billboard business just before he was to obtain his college degree. There was a mass of mitigating circumstances surrounding even this change in Ted’s life, which I shall not reveal in this review. He developed passions for ocean sailing and business that would tend to cloud his attention to his love and family life. There is no doubt you are interested in his relationship with Jane Fonda, and this issue is covered in the story, although maybe not as completely as many readers would like. Ted’s central accomplishments of winning the America’s Cup, the building of his television empire, the development of The Turner Foundation, and his acquisition of more land mass in the USA than any other American are all covered in exhilarating detail. Is there an arrogant Mr. Turner that you might occasionally feel like bitch-slapping? Absolutely. Is there an unpretentious billionaire who has nearly always remained ethically scrupulous and relentlessly passionate? Yes. Does he operate from a pragmatic viewpoint while religiously retaining compassion for all human and environmental consequences? Yes, probably more than any other living business magnate.

This brings us to the #1 reason for my obsession with this particular businessman. As the creator of CNN and its associated Headline News cable channel, Ted always kept scruples on the conference table. Those scruples have been splattered like billiard balls on the opening break by the scumbags who forced Ted out of control of his media empire, beginning January 3, 2000. That was the date on which Jerry Levin of Time Warner decided to close a deal with Steve Case of AOL. Although it would be years before Ted actually, totally resigned from AOL Time Warner, the explanation offered in Call Me Ted by not only Ted himself, but other contributors, clearly shows how those two CEO skunks were up to no good from the beginning of that legendary mega-merger flop. Their intent was to force Ted completely out of control of the television empire he had created, even if they had to pay him a huge salary to do practically nothing. As a person who has watched CNN ever so slowly dive down into the greedy, unscrupulous, right-wing sewer pit that it has become, I was looking forward to reading the details directly from The Mouth of the South, and Call Me Ted delivers.

See also: Ted Turner at Wikipedia
Media Man: Ted Turner's Improbable Empire

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