He drives around in a Toyota Prius and admits he’s become a little bit religious. He no longer drinks, hasn’t bought anything from a store in five years and sees a psychiatrist friend for conversation.
At age 73, CNN founder and former cable TV mogul Ted Turner is a lot mellower than the reputation that once gave him the titles “Captain Outrageous” and Mouth of the South”, according to a wide-ranging interview the Hollywood Reporter snagged with the reclusive billionaire.
So out of the spotlight is he, the Reporter headlined its piece, “Whatever happened to Ted Turner?”
The conclusion is that after years of fast living, wheeling and dealing and three marriages, Turner has been leading a very contemplative life since his departure from Time Warner Inc., which purchased Turner Broadcasting Corp. and CNN in 2000 then pushed Turner out after merging with AOL.
Turner, worth about $2 billion according to Forbes, opens up a lot in the interview, even showing reporter Stephen Galloway what’s in his wallet: a driver’s license, two credit cards, a few phone numbers and $1,000 in cash.
In addition to TBS and CNN, the former Atlanta billboard king founded Turner Network Television, the Cartoon Network and Turner Entertainment. He owned the Atlanta Braves and was the man behind World Championship Wrestling and the Goodwill Games.
He still has a lot to show for his wealth: 28 properties – nearly 2 million acres of land – including 14 ranches with 55,000 bison, enough to keep his Ted’s Montana Grill chain sizzling for years. He’s also teamed up with Atlanta-based Southern Co. on a solar-energy project in New Mexico, according to the Reporter.
He gets up a 4 a.m. to take medicine and then again at 6 a.m. for a light workout, according to the Reporter. He has a “mild to moderate case of anxiety” but says he doesn’t suffer from depression. He also says he’s not in therapy but he does see a psychiatrist friend once a month. “It’s just somebody to talk to,” he told the Reporter. The onetime alcoholic now doesn’t drink at all. “I quit completely a year ago,” he told the Reporter.
He spends his days focused on the nonprofits he supports: The U.N. Foundation, the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Turner Foundation. Turner gave a $1 billion gift to the U.N. in 1997.
It’s apparent his split with Time Warner still stings. Turner said he took an $8 billion hit after his shares in Time Warner plunged following its merger with AOL in 2000.
His daughter, Laura Turner Seydel, chairman of Captain Planet Foundation, told the Reporter her father had “totally gotten screwed” when Time Warner pushed him out, and that he “really misses” being in the business.
When it comes to television, once Ted Turner’s bread and butter, he only watches CNN and hasn’t watched its sister station HLN “in years. I want serious news,” he told the Reporter.
Turner doesn’t talk much about politics in the interview but says of President Barack Obama, “I don’t know who could do a better job.” He adds, “He’s alienated a lot of people — not deliberately or anything.” The environmental activist calls the Tea Party “mean-spirited” because he said members believe global warming “is a hoax.”
When it comes to friendships, Turner tells the Reporter, “I have several good friends but not one [in particular].”
When it comes to love, the Reporter says Turner has been alternating among four girlfriends since his 2001 breakup with actress Jane Fonda after 10 years of marriage.
He says he cried “for six months” after his divorce from Fonda. “And after that, you gotta go on.” At the time there were media reports that he paid Fonda $40 million.
On tying the knot, Turner says, “I regret that I wasn’t more successful with my marriages, but it is what it is.”