Ted Turner is a television and media magnate who founded CNN, the first 24-Hour cable news network.
Ted Turner was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on November 19, 1938. He began working for his father’s company, Turner Advertising and became president and CEO in 1963. He later renamed the company the Turner Broadcasting Company and founded the first 24-hour cable news network, CNN, which debuted in 1980. Time Warner purchased Turner Broadcasting for $7.5 billion in 1996. Turner was married to actress Jane Fonda from 1991-2001.
Ted Turner was born Robert Edward Turner III in Cincinnati, Ohio, on November 19, 1938. He is the eldest child of parents Robert Edward (Ed) Turner Jr. and Florence (Rooney) Turner. Ted’s father owned his own company, Turner Advertising. The business was lucrative; Ed earned a substantial profit selling billboard ads. Although Ed was a good provider, he suffered from mood swings caused by bipolar disorder and vented his anger by physically abusing Ted. Years later, as an adult, Ted would discover he too was bipolar.
When World War II broke out, Ed signed up for the Navy. In 1941, he brought his wife and Ted’s sister with him to the Gulf Coast, but left Ted behind feeling horribly abandoned. While his family was away, Ted stayed at a Cincinnati boarding school. After the war, Ed relocated the family to Savannah, Georgia, and enrolled his son in the Georgia Military Academy.
In 1950, Ted started attending McCallie, an elite boarding school in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His curriculum included military training, one of Ted’s favorite subjects. After completing his course load at McCallie, Ted hoped to sign up with the United States Naval Academy, but his father insisted Ted apply to Harvard. Ted’s grades weren’t good enough for Harvard, so in 1956, he enrolled in Brown University instead. But, before he could earn his diploma, Ted was kicked out for having a woman in his dorm room. It was 1959, the same year his parents divorced.
In 1960, Ted’s father made him the manager of Turner Advertising’s Macon, Georgia, branch. Ted quickly showed a natural talent for business by more than doubling the office’s revenue in his first year. When Turner’s father bought out a competitor in 1962, the costly buyout and subsequent debt placed the company in a tenuous financial condition. Fearing bankruptcy and struggling to cope with bipolar disorder, Ed shot himself to death in March of 1963. Ted dealt with his grief by throwing himself into his work. He took over the roles of president and chief executive officer at Turner Advertising, renamed Turner Communications in the late 1960s as the company bought several radio stations. By 1970 he had achieved the distinction of owning the biggest advertising company in the southeastern United States. Turner eventually expanded into television, purchasing the rights to old movies and situation comedies. The decision proved highly profitable.
In 1976, Turner made a strategic move to reach an even larger audience through the use of satellite technology. He rebranded once again, changing his company’s name to Turner Broadcasting Company. During the late 1970s he conceived the idea for an all-news network. Cable News Network (CNN) first aired in 1980. Six years later it was in the black. In 1985, Turner used some of his profits to buy Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Also in the 1980s, Turner began coloring films but eventually decided the cost was impractical.
In 1992 he created the Cartoon Network in addition to launching Turner Network Television (TNT) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM). In 1996, with Turner Broadcasting a leader in both the television and Internet industries, Turner sold the company to Time Warner for $7.5 billion dollars. After the merger, Turner stayed on and ran the company’s cable networks, including Home Box Office (HBO). In 2001, Time Warner merged with America Online (AOL). The following year Turner took a stab at an entirely new business venture, a steakhouse serving bison, called Ted’s Montana Grill.
Over the course of his successful career in broadcasting, Ted Turner married and divorced three times. His most famous marriage was his third, to actress and activist Jane Fonda. The celebrity couple married in 1991 and divorced a decade later over a disagreement on religious beliefs. In total, Turner has five children—two from his first marriage to Judy Gale Nye, and three from his second marriage to Jane Shirley Smith.