Mr. Turner was a panelist for the Forum’s discussion on Philanthropist Ted Turner in Conversation with Dean Julio Frenk: Driving Global Health from Goals to Action.
Ted 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, Inc. 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 over 300 million dollars to hundreds of organizations. Current grantees include National Wildlife Federation, Energy Future Coalition, National Restaurant Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Southern Environmental Law Center, Environmental Defense Fund, Planned Parenthood, National Women’s Law Center, Wild Salmon Center, River Network, Alliance for Energy Efficiency and Greater Yellowstone Coalition. In addition, the Turner Community Youth Development Initiative provides support for locally designed youth development programs in 30 rural communities near Turner’s properties.
Turner created the Captain Planet Foundation in August 1990, 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 up to $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. Both production companies no longer exist.
In January 2002, Turner opened the first Ted’s Montana Grill (TMG), 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 46 restaurants nationwide. In keeping with Turner’s commitment to eco-friendly practices, TMG 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, and more than 50,000 bison head. Through Turner Enterprises, Turner manages the largest commercial bison herd in North America on 15 ranches in Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.
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.