LEAD, FOLLOW OR GET OUT OF THE WAY: The Story of Ted Turner by Christian Williams


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Ted of the terrible mouth recently bet his $100 million fortune on an all-news cable-TV station operating out of Atlanta and aiming to rival CBS, ABC, and NBC. Will the underdog make it? Well, he was underdog when he took the America's Cup yachting trophy in 1977. And not for the first time. When Ted was 24, his father suicided and left him a billboard business--but it was already sold, and his lawyers warned him against buying it back. He did; and it prospered. A financial adviser warned him that gold--at $270 an ounce--was at its top price, and he just shouldn't buy. But he did, $2 million in Krugerrands; and a few months later he asked his adviser pleasantly, ""Seen the price of gold today, dummy?"" In 1979, hurricane winds whipped into the Fastnet Race, killing 15 competitors--and who won first place in the fleet of 303? (""I'm not going to say I'm sorry I won,"" he told the world press. ""I'm not going to say it."") While going to Southern military schools, Ted became obsessed with sailing (his father's doing)--and with Alexander the Great, the teenager who conquered the world. At Brown College he majored in drinking, sex, the classics, and winning intercollegiate sailing trophies. When his father shot himself, he recaptured the billboard company by ""claim-jumping"" all the company's leases before the big sale went through--which it didn't, because the new owners knew a master businessman when they saw one, and sold it back to him for stock in the company. ""I started out at 90 miles an hour,"" he says modestly. Soon he was buying radio stations; then, bored by radio, he moved into TV. About TV, he's religious: ""Television loves me, this I know, for the TV tells me so."" Much amusement, in a perverse sort of way.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1981
Publisher: Times Books