Any list of the legends of American business would have to include the name Ted Turner. Bold and frequently controversial, Turner was very much a disrupter in his prime. But time and age have put him in a reflective mood, as Senior Contributor Ted Koppel found, when he visited Turner at his Montana ranch:
You need a wide lens on your camera to capture the many sides of Ted Turner, especially out on his sprawling, 113,000-acre ranch outside Bozeman, Montana.
Riding on horses together, Koppel asked Turner, “You ever ride your whole property here?”
“No, but I’ve ridden quite a bit of it,” he replied.
“You’ve always been a bit of a dreamer, haven’t you?”
“Well, a lot of my dreams have come true!”
“60 Minutes” has been covering the fulfillment of Turner’s dreams for almost 40 years. In 1979, Harry Reasoner made the following observation about Turner: “He’s just convinced he can do anything he’s set out to do. And so far, he’s been right.”
At that point, Ted Turner had not yet created CNN. But he had bought the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Hawks, and by transmitting all those baseball and basketball games via satellite to cable stations around the country, Turner transformed his not-very-successful local Atlanta TV station WTBS into his own creation, which he dubbed a “super station.”
“Programming? You know we’ve got the best of any independent station,” he said in a TBS ad.
Around the same time, Turner, a man of many parts, had already skippered the yacht Courageous to a 4-0 sweep of Australia in the America’s Cup, arguably the world’s most prestigious yachting race.
“I’m a lot of different people, if you didn’t know that by now,” Turner told Reasoner. “I’m a multi-faceted person. I got a lot of multiple personalities. You ought to see me at midnight on a full moon!”
By the time Diane Sawyer got to Turner, in 1986, CNN was well up and running, and Turner had his sights on acquiring CBS.
Sawyer asked him, “What happened to the man who said CBS was ‘a cheap whorehouse taken over by sleaze-artists’?”
“I said that years ago,” he said. “I was more of a crusader then than I am now, but I really felt that way at the time.”