Ted Turner: Opposes CNN-ABC Merger

Turner Opens Up To Mike Wallace

Ted Turner told correspondent Mike Wallace Tuesday that he is against a merger between CNN and ABC News and that buying back the Cable News Network is out of the question financially for him.

Wallace spoke with Turner by phone to update an interview to be broadcast on 60 Minutes II Wednesday, Feb. 5, at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Merging CNN with ABC News is not a good idea, Turner said today. "Just merging the two organizations has a lot of challenges. The potential pitfalls and opportunities for disagreements exceed whatever benefits could be gained," he told Wallace.

But Turner can't rescue CNN either because he says he doesn't have the money to buy it back from AOL/Time Warner. The fall of the company stock has greatly diminished his wealth.

"From the [stock price] high to the low, [I lost] seven or eight billion [dollars]," he tells Wallace in the interview. Just this week, he told Wallace, he lost another "couple of hundred million" dollars when the price of company shares tumbled again.

Turner is known for his business savvy, as well as his outrageous comments, but the media mogul tells Wallace that endorsing the merger between AOL and Time Warner was a big mistake.

During the candid interview, Turner talks about his past, his future and his last role at AOL Time Warner, a position he calls "a title without portfolio ... like the emperor of Japan."

Just before he quit his job as a vice chairman at AOL Time Warner, Turner told Wallace that he doesn't have much to do.

"I have one foot in the door and one on the sidewalk," he says. Turner doesn't even have a voice in the running of CNN, the network he founded.

"I think basically that CNN is doing a pretty good job," says Turner. "I mean there are some things, obviously, that I don't like, but I'm the old fuddy-duddy that – that it reported to for 22 or 23 years, so, I mean, obviously, any changes are going to…give me some trouble."

Some of the things that have come out of Turner's self-described "big fat mouth" have also given him trouble over the years.

During a speech after the World Trade Center disaster, he told an audience he thought the terrorists were brave. "Brave ... was a bad word," Turner tells Wallace. "My father committed suicide and he was not a coward. He was very brave when he shot himself, in my opinion, so that's why, to a degree, I said that."

After his father's suicide, Turner swung into high gear as an entrepreneur and business tycoon. Although the two were close, there were problems.

"I don't think my father was abusive - my father was a strict disciplinarian, but he and I were extremely close," says Turner, who adds that his father used to beat him with a wire coat hanger. "He made me spank him one night and – and that was very, very hard… It was much easier to be spanked than to spank your father."

Given all of his ups and downs, there are countless words that could end up on Turner's epitaph. He tells Wallace his suggestion, "I know what I'm having them put on my tombstone: I have nothing more to say."
  • David Kohn

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