November 10, 2008
Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Call Me Ted
Ted Turner is an amazing man who has accomplished amazing things. He has won the America's Cup. He helped get cable off the ground with his Atlanta TV station, which would later be called WTBS. He bought a struggling Atlanta Braves team just to add sports to that fledging cable channel, and under his patronage the team went on to be one of the most successful baseball organizations of the past twenty years. Perhaps too he can be called the father of the 24-hour news cycle as he created CNN, in part to satisfy his own desire to watch the news later in the day. These are only a few of his accomplishments, a list too lengthy to include here.
But perhaps his greatest gesture of largess--and the most obvious example of why his is an unique story,-- was his 1997 commitment to give the United Nations a billion dollars. As Turner was flying from Atlanta to New York to receive a special humanitarian award from the UN, he was going over his financial statements and discovered that, since the Time Warner purchase of his company nine months before, his stock had appreciated from $2.2 billion to $3.2 billion. On the spot, he decided to give that money to the UN. And, when the donation was announced, Turner challenged other billionaires to follow suit. He explains that he couldn't legally give the UN money as a private citizen, but created a foundation that was able to support UN projects.
Turner's story is not only about his business successes and failures, however. It is instead a life story which details his relationships, including a complex one with his father, quite a complex man, and also his marriage to Jane Fonda. Throughout, I found the writing to be straight-forward and engaging. As Turner relates the story of when his world fell apart with the AOL-Time Warner merger, he also has people involved--both his friends and his non-friends--tell their side of the story. His "firing" from AOL Time Warner is reconstructed so well that you are compelled to believe you are getting the whole truth--not just his side of the story.
Ted Turner has written a book that, I believe, other autobiographies will be compared to in the future in terms of his honesty and candor. I read this book cover to cover, spontaneously shared sections I found particularly intriguing with others in the office, and recommend it highly.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.