In 1984 – when my parents were one of the first cable subscribers on a tiny Caribbean island – I had no idea that CNN was a fledgling cable network. It is easy to assume that rich, powerful, outspoken Southern billionaires such as Ted Turner have always been so. Not quite.
Ted Turner was once a rambunctious, badly behaved boy who was chucked off to boarding schools at a very tender age, expelled several times, and repeatedly physically abused by a controlling alcoholic father. Despite his harsh childhood, there is no pity party in his autobiography ‘Call Me Ted‘. He tells the story of his challenging younger days with brevity and a matter of fact quality.
And then come the details of his staggering accomplishments. The trajectory goes like this: troubled child – college dropout – multi-billionaire. He was forced to eat humble pie by joining his father’s billboard business, but then went on to win the America’s Cup, start a cable network and eventually CNN, own the Atlanta Braves, become an exceedingly wealthy person and the largest single landowner in the United States. He even gave a billion dollars to the United Nations.
The story is so astounding, like a work of pop fiction, it is almost unbelievable. He is passionate, outspoken and in many ways a stubborn brat. How did he do it? Vision, belief in his dream and hard work. It makes your head spin, but the failures and frailties are candidly presented too.
An important part of the book is the space given to key persons in his life, including ex-wife Jane Fonda and arch-enemies to share their uncensored thoughts on him and their experiences with him. The book is so much richer for it.