Citizen Turner: The Wild Rise of An American Tycoon

Philanthropist or philanderer? ‘Mouth of the South’ or respected
media mogul? America-firster or world citizen? Ted Turner, the
enigmatic media tycoon and crusader, has many sides. The Goldbergs,
a father-and-son team, explore them all in this unsanctioned,
page-turner biography of a remarkable life.

Turner repeatedly courts disaster and comes out a winner. He
turned an obscure UHF channel into Atlanta’s major sports and movie
station. He started Cable News Network when others said he was
nuts. He won the America’s Cup against great odds. But others paid
tolls on his climb to greatness. He was reportedly a monster to
work for, sail for, and have babies for. The hours were long, the
wages ridiculous. When Republican friends complained of Turner’s
fondness for Fidel Castro, Turner replied, ‘Hell, he’s no
communist; he’s a dictator, just like me.’

Ironically, it was Turner’s legendary philandering that helped
shift his politics toward contemporary consciousness. One of his
extramarital flames (his pilot) began opening his eyes to
environmental issues, feminism, and New Age living. He left his
long-suffering wife and kids for her, but it didn’t last. Jane
Fonda enters stage left to shape him up, physically and

But could progressive pillow-talk alone overcome his military
schooling, or his tough-love Dad’s legacy, or his thick-skinned
entrepreneurialism, and turn Turner into a patron of the Goodwill
Games, and now Wowuka, savior of the buffalo? What makes the
billionaire creator of a worldwide network that revolutionized both
broadcasting and diplomacy give a damn about nuclear arms and
bison? What is it about male egotists that fits as easily with
building corporate empires as with saving the world (in both cases,
often leaving a trail of carnage on the personal front)? It is the
paradox of the transformed Ted Turner that still eludes analysis.
For now, this well-written account of Turner’s rise to power in
broadcasting is worth the read. If nothing else, it may make you
glad you don’t have what it takes to be a tycoon.

Citizen Turner: The Wild Rise of An American

by Robert Goldberg and Gerald Jay Goldberg

(Harcourt Brace, $27)

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