CNN Profiles: Introducing Ted Turner
April 1st, 2013
04:43 PM ET

CNN Profiles: Introducing Ted Turner

Hosted by Michael Schulder

Follow Michael at: www.wavemaker.me

Editor's Note: Listen to the full interview in our player above, and join the conversation in our comments section below.

(CNN) - You wouldn't think Ted Turner needs an introduction. Especially to a CNN audience. But he does.

Despite Ted Turner’s fame and wealth and impact, we know so little about him.

Until now, for example, we've never seen the heartbreaking letter his father sent him when Ted was studying at Brown:

“My dear son, I am appalled, even horrified, that you have adopted Classics as a major. As a matter of fact, I almost puked on the way home today. I think you are rapidly becoming a jackass, and the sooner you get out of that filthy atmosphere, the better it will suit me…”

Soon after that letter, Turner’s father forced him to withdraw from Brown.

Ted came home to help run his father’s advertising billboard business.

Ted did not want to leave Brown.

And he did not want to leave home for a string of boarding schools when he was only 4 years old. His father made him.

When Ted was just 24, his father committed suicide.

How could a boy, so rejected, suffering such a loss, find the inner strength to accomplish what he has accomplished?

Turner, the Classics lover, gave us a window on where he finds his inspiration. It’s from an epic poem called “Horatius at the Bridge.” [Hear Ted recite part of the poem at 9:00 in]

“Horatius at the Bridge” is set in ancient Rome. Invaders are approaching the city.

There is only one bridge across The Tiber. The Romans are retreating to the heart of their city, leaving the bridge standing — available for the enemy to swiftly advance.

Horatius, the solider, stands alone on the Roman side of the bridge, holding off the enemy.

When his fellow Romans see Horatius’ courage, they begin to support him, a trickle at first, then more, until there are enough of them to destroy the bridge and cut off the enemy’s access to their city.

Until now, we didn't know Ted Turner had committed the epic poem to memory. If you listen to the podcast attached to this story you will hear Ted recite it — no notes — with a spark and understanding that comes from experience.

“Has there been a time when you felt like Horatius?” I asked him.

One word response. “CNN.”

But we did not invite Ted Turner to the house he built for an interview about CNN, an invitation we are honored he accepted.

The Ted Turner of CNN needs no introduction.

This story is about Ted Turner, the Eco-Capitalist. It's about the man who has demonstrated how to protect a large biodiversity of species on vast land holdings - and make enough money from that land to sustain his environmental conservation quest.

That Ted Turner needs an introduction.

That’s the Ted Turner who spent millions in the early phases of a struggling media business to support the work of the great oceanographer Jacques Cousteau when Cousteau and his son Philippe Sr. were determined to document the richness of the ocean that humans had never seen before.

That’s the Ted Turner who, inspired by the elder Cousteau, took his battle for environmental conservation to the West, accumulating the second largest private land holdings in America as a home for giant herds of the species he became fascinated with as a child: the Bison.

That’s the Ted Turner we get to know — really get to know — in the brand new book called, "Last Stand: Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet."

“Last Stand” is written by Ted’s fellow Montanan, Todd Wilkinson, a veteran journalist who specializes in the environment and joins us in this podcast.

Wilkinson has been covering the Ted Turner of the West since Turner bought his first ranch and started tearing down interior fences to give safe haven to species that other ranchers had fenced out as intruders on their bottom line.

Turner welcomed prairie dogs to his land — and expanded their population after decades in which his fellow ranchers had systematically exterminated them because they competed for resources with money-making cattle.

Turner and his team of land management biologists saw the prairie dogs for the unique value they provided — as a keystone species that is a crucial source of food for many other species. When prairie dogs are exterminated, other species starve to death.

The Eco-Capitalist’s new neighbors in the West didn’t like what they were seeing and hearing from Turner, the novice rancher, in the early 80s. That’s when Todd Wilkinson began reporting on him. It has taken a long time for Wilkinson to really get to know Ted Turner, and to witness the results of Turner’s definition of the bottom line.

With Ted Turner, there is not a single bottom line.

There’s a triple bottom line.

What’s a triple bottom line? How can you make a profit from the land and protect it at the same time?

In “Last Stand,” Todd Wilkinson provides answers.

Because Ted Turner — the Eco-Capitalist — does need an introduction.

Here’s that Ted.

Subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher. And listen to CNN Profiles on our SoundCloud page.

soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Hugh Mann

    So, you did need to be introduced

    April 2, 2013 at 5:35 am | Report abuse |
  2. Adam

    He has provided me access, through his property, to some of the most gorgeous mountain hiking I have ever seen. Driving through that property I have seen herds of 100+ buffalo. And I have eaten buffalo meat at his restaurant in Bozeman, MT. Synthesize these facts as you will. On the scale of to true-born Montanan to Cali-born profiteer, he seems to be one of the good guys. In any case, God bless the Big Sky.

    April 2, 2013 at 1:35 am | Report abuse |
  3. sosupernova

    I think Ted Turner has done some really fine things with his fortune and we should all appreciate his interest in the environment since it is all we have. It sounds like he had much to overcome but he did, and I'm happy for him.

    April 2, 2013 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  4. zaira bueno

    He kills a lot of buffalo and sell in his restaurant. Just ridiculous!!!!

    April 2, 2013 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
    • cscann

      Farm raised for that very reason. Think about it!

      April 2, 2013 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
    • MC

      So what, half-wit? Buffalo have to die of something, and he's managing to preserve the species and a great deal of natural habitat for other species as well.

      April 2, 2013 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
  5. zaira bueno

    he kill's a lot of buffalo and sell in his restaurant. he help to safe planet?????????

    April 2, 2013 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
  6. Bouletheou

    Ted Turner thinks that world population should be reduced by 95% and everyone should only have one child. He also says it's good that US soldiers are committing suicide.

    Of course he continues to prolong his own existence instead of offing himself to reduce the population of the earth. Apparently suicide is not good for Ted. He also has five children. He's a crazy jackass 1%-er masquerading as an enlightened advocate of the 99%.

    April 1, 2013 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • MC

      You're an imbecile.

      April 2, 2013 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
      • Unfortunately...

        He actually did say these things. People who think like him are very dangerous human beings.

        April 2, 2013 at 2:48 am | Report abuse |
  7. Science!

    You forgot to mention that he's a closet case.

    April 1, 2013 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. vance odonnell

    Hanoi Jane was right...the war was wrong...historians and even the men who brought us to war admit it...

    April 1, 2013 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Diane Hanson

    I thought Ted Turner was now married wit Jane Fonda. I am glad that he puts a fair amount of his fortune towards our planet.

    April 1, 2013 at 10:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Greg Clapton

    For all you naive haters: Ted is 74 so he sits a horse pretty darn well and he divorced Hanoi Jane in 2001 so that baggage is long gone. He has locked away vast areas of land so that developers and the government will never be able to touch them. He is doing good things with his money and his life. So if you don't like him then why are you reading the article in the first place? Hate or jealousy maybe.

    April 1, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diane Hanson

      I thought Ted Turrner was married to Jane Fonda.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. stevie68a

    I once read that he's an atheist. We need exceptional people like him in the reality community. Although Jane has had a
    hand in changing his mind, into becoming christian.

    April 1, 2013 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bryan Odell

      Sounds to me like Ted offed his dad. That was always the rumor around Pocotaligo anyway.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
      • MC

        Another half-wit heard from.

        April 2, 2013 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Colin

      What does being an atheist have to do with any of this? You're beliefs shouldn't define you as a person, and if you really think that then you have some re-evaluating to do yourself. If he is an atheist then he is treating the earth how any god would want better than most devout believers.

      April 1, 2013 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
  12. stephen douglas

    Ted Turner said the 9/11 highjacking murderers were "brave". So, in his little mind, attacking unsuspecting civilians after you have had some limited military training is "brave".

    Ted and his ex-beech Hanoi Jane can both kiss my azz the next time I have the runs . I don't know why they divorced because they are both just a couple of lib phk-offs and I'd like to tell him that to his sorry face.

    Jack wagon. Otherwise, I don't have a problem with either of them.

    April 1, 2013 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • mpouxesas

      You sure told him Stephen. You go boy.......

      April 1, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • C C THOMAS

      And just what have you done for the planet?

      April 1, 2013 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      Did you know that you are a bit of a Dick Head?

      April 1, 2013 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. SanDiego

    Sure Ted has his faults and gets some poor advice, but two things he did right are at the top of my list: 1. he bagged one of the hottest women in Hollywood who had a rich, famous family – you guys are just jealous and 2. he put together one of the world's best and most difficult yacht racing programs – the America's Cup for you ignorant cowboys – and won it driving his own boat. If any of you wannabes can top that – step right up with the proof. TED TURNER is an AMERICAN HERO

    April 1, 2013 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • stephen douglas

      1. My wife is far better looking than "Hanoi Jane".
      2. Who gives a crap about a boat racing team?
      3. You left out three: He said the murdering 9/11 highjackers were "brave". I guess it is a reflection about how he conducts business, i.e., attack unsuspecting people with unbelievable cruelty.

      April 1, 2013 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Rod C. Venger

    The only thing that anyone to the right of Stalin cares about is who he's married to, that being Jane Fonda. Anything else is just drivel. Trivia for the weak-minded and weak-kneed.

    Prairie dogs, Ted, are for shooting, and we both know it. You just don't let your lefty pals know that you love making the little critters go cartwheeling from 400 yards away, dancing to the tune of a .22-250 slug. Reason enough to allow them to breed all over your ranch. I would too...

    April 1, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bob Black

    Like his father I almost puked when I saw the picture of Turner on his horse, He is riding like a sack of s**t.
    Good looking horse though, but the horse does seemed bored.

    April 1, 2013 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Chopper

    I just want his horse, gorgeous!

    April 1, 2013 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Dan

    She turned him into a real carpet muncher.

    April 1, 2013 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • SanDiego

      Dan – you dreamed of munching that carpet while looking at your 300 pound porker wife.

      April 1, 2013 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Dan

    Turner was great until he started fooling around with Jane Fonda. Then he moved to the left and has been there ever since.

    April 1, 2013 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Gerry

    Sits a horse just like a city slicker!

    April 1, 2013 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Jon

    At least he's not a greedy destructive a hole like Koch Brothers.

    April 1, 2013 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  21. BIll

    What about the Ted Turner that was once an avid conservative, though some what of a bigoted one when he referred to Californians "as a bunch of left wing nuts and fruitcakes" in an interview with American Opinion Magazine in the early 1980's. I guess with enough time and money, you can transform yourself and make people believe you're anythng you want them to believe.

    April 1, 2013 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • YoHi60

      Negativity won't pull you through.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
  22. raptor57

    the man spends millions trying to destroy the constitution, another liberal whack job who thinks i am incapable of making my own descisions.

    April 1, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • YoHi60

      Your comment is an indication of how far removed you are from God's injunction to make a garden of this planet.

      And your failure to respect a man such as Ted Turner is simply a reflection of the deep hole that your soul is stuck in. I hope that someday you'll become a real, contributing human being.....it'll be good for the rest of us but immeasurably better for you.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
      • Rod C. Venger

        Wow, Jane, is that you? We're so honored to have you here...not.

        April 1, 2013 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  23. George Dixon

    Ted Turner: Environmentalist.....(and largest private land owner in the nation)

    "While a timber-cutting operation was under way on one of his [Turner's] ranches in 1998, members of the radical environmental group Earth First! instead protested timber cutting on a nearby ranch owned by Zachary Taylor, said private investigator Barry R. Clausen, who spent a year undercover at EarthFirst.

    He asked a protester why the group did not include take on [sic] Mr. Turner, Mr. Clausen said, and was told: “We cannot. That’s where our money comes from.”

    Mr. Clausen, author of “Burning Rage,” an investigation of domestic terrorism, said environmental groups’ nickname for Mr. Turner is “Daddy Greenbucks.”

    “Ted Turner has canned hunts where you can shoot a buffalo … and drilling … in New Mexico and clear-cutting trees and he never gets protested. And when you ask why, it’s because he is one of the biggest contributors to extremist groups,” Mr. Clausen said."

    April 1, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Pepina

    I have a real problem with hypocrites; Turner wants to wallow in money – fine and dandy – but don't do it while promoting a socialistic existence for the 'great unwashed masses.'

    April 1, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • KRJ9

      Pepina :Great unwashed masses? I wish you would quit bashing Bush and all his friends. They can't help it and your constant bashing doesn't make it any easier for the poor uneducated republicans.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
      • raptor57

        wow thats clever. can i blame bush too?

        April 1, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
        • YoHi60

          As clever, you think, as the 'great unwashed masses' comment?

          April 1, 2013 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • YoHi60

      GREEN with envy....on a few levels.

      April 1, 2013 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |