Monday, May 26, 2008

CNN Founder Ted Turner's Personal Wealth In 1994

(The following article first appeared in the February 2, 1994 issue of the now-defunct alternative newsweekly, Downtown, when CNN was still controlled by Ted Turner.)

After he aligned himself with Time Warner, Tele-Communications Inc. and other cable company corporate interests in an organizational way, CNN Founder Ted Turner’s personal worth increased from about $535 million to over $3 billion by 1994. Among Billionaire Turner’s personal possessions in 1994 was a 130,000-acre ranch in Montana. He also owned in 1994 the 500 square-mile Ladder Ranch in New Mexico, which made him “one of the largest individual landowners in the West,” according to It Ain’t As Easy As It Looks. In addition, with his CNN/TBS profits, Turner provided each of his five children with a $2 million trust fund.

CNN Founder Turner also used his CNN/TBS profits to set up the Turner Family Foundation, on whose board of trustees sat his children and his then-wife in 1994—the former radical feminist, antiwar movie actress and aerobics instructor, Jane Fonda. After Billionaire Turner married Fonda in 1991, she was then “seen by some as a potential First Lady to a future President Turner,” according to The Sky Barons. The book It Ain’t As Easy As It Looks also stated the following in reference to Turner’s past U.S. presidential ambitions:

“`In 1980,’ recalls Irwin Maz, Turner’s first real business adviser, `Ted…said he was going to be this country’s wealthiest man. And…he told me he was going to be president of the United States.

“`I asked him how in hell he thought he could be president. You have no political base.’ `I’ve got the boob tube,’ he told me.’””

As chairman of the board and president of the CNN/TBS media conglomerate during the 1990s, Fonda’s then-billionaire husband during the 1990s also took home an annual salary that exceeded $676,000 in 1991. Downtown was unable to learn in 1994 whether Fonda ever had any plans to star in a 1990s movie, titled "How To Marry A Billionaire." But as part of Fonda’s pre-nuptial agreement with Turner, she received “a $10 million dowry of TBS stock,” according to It Ain’t As Easy As It Looks.

Even without the $10 million dowry of TBS stock she received in exchange for becoming Mrs. Turner during the 1990s, Fonda was no Cinderella before she married her billionaire ex-husband. As Citizen Jane: The Turbulent Life of Jane Fonda by Christopher Andersen observed in 19990:

“In 1988, according to Forbes magazine, Jane made an estimated $20 million. As for her assets, they included Fonda Films (worth around $40 million in 1989), the…Santa Monica house ($2.5 million), a prize Arabian stallion, the Laurel Springs ranch and spa at Santa Barbara (another $8 million, not counting income from a spa operating on the property and charging clients $2,500 per week), and the fitness empire that netted $35 million annually from videos, books, audiotapes and records…

“…Her multimillion-dollar stock portfolio, if made public, might also have proven embarrassing…She reportedly has large holdings in such companies as DuPont and IBM…”

At the CNN Center in Atlanta, “a $3 million penthouse apartment” was “built into the top floor of this sprawling structure” which was “Ted Turner’s legal residence” in 1994, according to It Ain’t As Easy As It Looks. The same book also noted that in 1994 Turner’s 14th floor office at the CNN Center was “manned by a phalanx of security guards” and that the then-CNN/TBS Chairman of the Board Turner’s desk was “dominated by his personal mantra, `Lead, Follow or Get out of the way,’ which” appeared “on a miniature billboard.”

In addition to being in the global media business in the early 1990s Turner was then “the country’s largest commercial buffalo breeder and could account for nearly 10 percent of all the privately owned bison in the world,” according to It Ain’t As Easy As It Looks. The same book also noted that Turner had “reiterated his serious intention of making a business out of buffalo…’ and Turner had said “`I do think there’s going to be a bigger and bigger market for buffalo meat.’”

(Downtown 2/2/94)

Next: CNN’s Historic Editorial Politics