Throughout his career, Ted Turner has won recognition for his entrepreneurial acumen; sharp business skills; a vision that transformed television; leadership qualities that won sports championships; and his unprecedented philanthropy.
Turner began his career as an account executive with Turner Advertising Company and entered the television business in 1970 when he acquired Atlanta independent UHF station channel 17. In 1976, Turner purchased Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves and launched TBS Superstation, originating the “Superstation” concept. The following year, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. acquired the National Basketball Association’s Atlanta Hawks, and in 1980 Turner launched CNN, the world’s first live, 24-hour global news network.
Over the next two decades, the company built a portfolio of unrivaled cable television news and entertainment brands and businesses, including CNN Headline News, CNN International, TNT, Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies. In the mid-’90s, Castle Rock Entertainment and New Line Cinema became Turner Broadcasting properties. In October 1996, the company merged with Time Warner Inc., and in 2001, Time Warner merged with AOL to create AOL Time Warner. The company later changed its name back to Time Warner Inc.
Turner has also made his mark as one of the most influential philanthropists in the U.S.
He is the chairman of the Turner Foundation, founded in 1990, which supports efforts for improving air and water quality, developing a sustainable energy future to protect our climate, safeguarding environmental health, maintaining wildlife habitat protection, and developing practices and policies to curb population growth rates. Since its inception, the Turner Foundation has given more than $300 million to hundreds of organizations.
Turner and executive producer Barbara Pyle launched the animated series Captain Planet and the Planeteers in 1990. One year later, Pyle created the Captain Planet Foundation to fund and support hands-on, environmental projects for children and youth. The foundation’s objective is to encourage innovative programs that empower children and youth around the world to work individually and collectively to solve environmental problems in their neighborhoods and communities.
The Turner Endangered Species Fund, launched in June 1997, is a core grantee of the Turner Foundation, which works to conserve biodiversity by emphasizing restoration efforts of endangered or imperiled species on the Turner properties.
In September 1997, Turner announced his historic pledge of $1 billion to the United Nations Foundation (UNF). The organization supports the goals and objectives of the United Nations to promote a more peaceful, prosperous and just world. UNF has identified four core priorities: women and population; children’s health; the environment; and peace and security.
In early 2001, Turner launched the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a foundation he co-chairs with former Senator Sam Nunn. NTI is working to close the growing and increasingly dangerous gap between the threat from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the global response.
Turner later created two independent film production companies, Ted Turner Pictures and Ted Turner Documentaries, which produced the major motion picture Gods and Generals and the critically acclaimed PBS documentary Avoiding Armageddon, respectively.
In January 2002, Turner opened the first Ted’s Montana Grill, in Columbus, Ohio, with his partner, George W. McKerrow Jr., founder of the Longhorn Steakhouse chain. Ted’s Montana Grill offers classic American comfort food, including bison or beef burgers, in an authentic Montana bar and grill atmosphere. To date, Ted’s Montana Grill operates 45 restaurants nationwide. In keeping with Turner’s commitment to eco-friendly practices, Ted’s Montana Grill utilizes innovative ways to reduce waste and energy consumption.
Turner is also chairman of Turner Enterprises, Inc., a private company, which manages his business interests, land holdings and investments, including the oversight of two million acres in 12 states and in Argentina. Through Turner Enterprises, Turner also manages the largest commercial bison herd (51,000) in North America on 15 ranches in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.
Over the past several years, Turner has devoted his time and energy toward promoting the use of clean energy sources. While urging others to make the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, he has already done so in a very large way. Turner has partnered with Southern Company to build multiple large-scale solar projects including the Cimarron Solar Facility in Colfax County, New Mexico (30 MW), the Apex Solar Facility in Clark County, Nevada (20 MW), Spectrum Solar Facility also located in Clark County, Nevada (30 MW), Granville Solar Facility near Oxford, North Carolina (2.5 MW), the Campo Verde Solar Facility (139MW) in Imperial County, California and Macho Springs Solar Facility (50 MW) in Luna County, New Mexico. In addition, Turner has added solar panels on his numerous properties and recently installed 25 solar canopies in the employee parking lots adjacent to his Atlanta offices.
He is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, industry awards and civic honors, including being named TIME Magazine’s 1991 Man of the Year, Broadcasting and Cable’s Man of the Century in 1999 and one of TIME 100 World’s Most Influential People in 2009. In recent years, Turner received the 2011 Palazzo Strozzi Foundation’s Renaissance Man of the Year award, the Overseas Press Club Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 and was honored by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 35th Annual Sports Emmy® Awards in 2014, among many others.
November 19, 1938
Robert Edward Turner, III is born in Cincinnati, OH
Graduates from the McCallie School in Chattanooga, TN; enrolls at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island
Leaves Brown University and begins working for his father’s business, Turner Advertising Company
Takes over as president of Turner Advertising Company
Purchases Atlanta television station Channel 17
Launches Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. (TBS, Inc.) and purchases the Atlanta Braves baseball team; purchases first bison (goes on to amass a herd of 51,000)
Wins the America’s Cup; purchases the Atlanta Hawks basketball team
Announces his plans to launch a groundbreaking 24-hour news network titled Cable News Network (CNN)
Turner and his crew are feared dead as their yacht Tenacious remains unaccounted for after encountering disastrous weather during the 605-mile Fastnet ocean race. Tenacious goes on to win Fastnet race
June 1, 1980
Officially launches CNN
Launches another news channel with a thirty-minute cycle of headline news stories titled CNN2 (later to become known as Headline News)
Hosts the first Goodwill Games held in Moscow, Russia
Purchases first Western property The Bar None Ranch, going on to become one of the nation’s largest individual landowners with 2 million acres
Launches Turner Network Television (TNT)
Establishes the Turner Foundation, Inc., a private, independent family foundation committed to preventing damage to the natural systems - water, air, and land; Created by Ted Turner and Barbara Pyle, the animated series Captain Planet and the Planeteers airs on TBS and receives international acclaim; the Captain Planet Foundation (CPF) is established the following year
CNN establishes itself as the world's leader in news; Ted Turner is named Man of the Year by Time Magazine
Launches the Cartoon Network
Launches Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
Under Ted Turner's ownership, the Atlanta Braves win the World Series
Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. merges with Time Warner, Inc.
The Turner family launches the Turner Endangered Species Fund (TESF), a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving biodiversity by ensuring the stability of imperiled species and their habitats
Makes history by pledging $1 billion to the United Nations, establishes the United Nations Foundation (UNF) the following year
The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) is founded by Ted Turner and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn; Time Warner is purchased by AOL to become AOL Time Warner
Co-founds Ted’s Montana Grill with acclaimed restaurateur George McKerrow, Jr., and opens the chain’s first restaurant in Columbus, OH
Receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Ted Turner’s autobiography Call Me Ted is released and becomes a New York Times bestseller
Partners with Southern Company to pursue the development of renewable energy projects including the Cimarron Solar Facility in New Mexico, one of the largest solar photovoltaic plants in the United States
Turner is named a member of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Advocacy Group, working with 20 other members to achieve the MDG’s by the year 2015
Inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame; Installation of 25 solar canopies in parking lot adjacent to Turner Enterprises’ Atlanta offices is completed
Ted Turner, Dr. Sylvia Earle and Sir Richard Branson unite to Form OceanElders, a group of global leaders dedicated to promoting ocean conservation, protecting the ocean's habitat and wildlife, and preserving its ecosystems and species biodiversity
Announces $1 million donation to the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund aimed at protecting Grauer's gorillas in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
Last Stand: Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet, written by Todd Wilkinson, is released; Last Stand chronicles the rise of Ted Turner as an American media mogul who has since become one of the world’s pioneering “eco-capitalists” and peace-minded humanitarians in the 21st century
Inducted into the Technology Hall of Fame of Georgia at the 2014 Georgia Technology Summit in Atlanta.
Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences at 35th Annual Sports Emmy® Awards
Ted Turner’s portrait, by famed artist Jon Friedman, is unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Photo credit: Paul Morigi/Invision for UNF/AP® Awards