Ted Turner Looks Back

Media Mogul Talks About His Life, Loves, Personal Struggles And Business

CBS All Access
This video is available on CBS All Access
Ted Turner is like Dracula: you have to drive a stake through his heart to stop him, and though many have come close, he's back.

Though he's gone from being a really rich man to a mere billionaire, he's maintained the manic energy that drove him to change the landscape of the information age by creating CNN and 24-hour news.

The uncompromising competitor - who won the America's Cup, is the ex-husband of Jane Fonda, the batty billionaire who challenged his arch enemy, fellow billionaire Rupert Murdoch to a boxing match, once described as both genius and jackass - has now decided to reflect on a tumultuous life and more or less tell all in a memoir

Ted Turner is the largest individual landowner in the U.S., owning two million acres across 12 states. 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer caught up with him at one of his Montana ranches.

This lonesome cowboy hates his own company: he admits he doesn't like being alone.

"These are big places to be alone, I'll tell you. Come out here and spend the night by yourself some time, you know, the coyote's out there howling," Turner says, howling. "You know, and it's pretty scary."

At the Snowcrest Ranch, Ted Turner is not alone. He keeps company with bison, horses and a stream full of Ruby River trout.

Life is good for Turner. He's not your average old-age pensioner: this most restless of men jets around the world promoting good causes, dreaming up new business ventures, and dropping in on his dozens of properties scattered about the hemisphere.

And now, as he turns 70, he's written his book. After his morning ride, the man who proudly says he never looks back, decided to do just that: to let Ted reflect on Ted.

"I've had the good fortune to have a much more diverse life than most people would, professional sports and television and news and movies," he says.

And he says his personal has been a lot of fun.

Turner burst on the scene when he captained "Courageous," the yacht that won the America's Cup.

But it was his groundbreaking creation of CNN that put Turner indelibly on the map. But, his company's rapid growth and ballooning debt nearly bankrupted him.

"I was gonna go broke if I didn't get things turned around real fast. But I was able to get it refinanced, without government help, I might add, unlike what's going on today, but we made it. But by the skin on our chinny chin chin. And two years later we made a run at CBS, unsuccessful, but we did take a swing," he says.

Instead, Turner went on to create his own broadcasting powerhouse, and when he merged his company with Time Warner in 1996, his status as media visionary was confirmed. "I didn't care what, how much adversity life threw at me. I intended to get to the top," he says.

The adversity started at infancy. Shipped off to boarding school at the age of 4, followed by years of military school for discipline, he says his alcoholic father did everything he could to toughen him up.

"You had a pretty tough father," Safer comments.

"So what. You know, lots of people have tough fathers," Turner replies.

"Well, he beat you up," Safer points out.

"No, he didn't beat me up. He spanked me," Turner says.

Turner says he was spanked with a wire hanger a couple of times, and admits it was traumatic, but says, "He was doing it to make me better."

Asked if he thinks it made him better, Turner says, "I think so."

At age 21, he began working for his father's outdoor advertising business. But shortly after, an event took place that both shaped and shattered Ted Turner: his father committed suicide.

"Were you out to prove something to him even though he was gone?" Safer asks.

"He wanted me to be a big success. And all my life I've tried to be a big success. So his influence was huge," Turner says.