Ted Turner Looks Back

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

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That success is plastered all over the walls of his Atlanta office. CNN made Turner into a statesman of sorts, hobnobbing with world leaders. But he may be best remembered for the impolitic things he has said, insulting Christianity, fellow billionaires, and even the Italians. "Italians, Italians, imagine the Italians at war…They'd rather be involved in crime and just making some wine and having a good time," he once said.

His utter inability to self-censor earned Turner the nickname "The Mouth from the South." But to some it was evidence of true mental instability.

Turner admits he took the drug lithium for a while, but said it had no effect. But that didn't stop his rival Rupert Murdoch from questioning his sanity during their legendary war of words.

Murdoch's newspapers were brutal attacking Turner, calling him nuts. And Turner thinks Murdoch had detectives following him around at times. "At least I think he did. I never had any proof of it."

Turner once said Murdoch was the most dangerous man in the world, but he no longer believes that. "I think George Bush is the most dangerous man in the world," he says. "I've made peace with Rupert. We had lunch together a few months ago. Now there's not anybody I don't like. But after this interview's over, I may not like you."

It's vintage Ted Turner, as was his joy when he agreed to AOL's merger with Time Warner. "I did it as much or more excitement and enthusiasm as I did on that night when I first made love some 42 years ago," he said.

He was now worth $10 billion. But shortly after the merger, Turner was pushed aside by Time Warner brass, even though he was the company's largest individual stockholder. Then the Internet bubble burst and AOL/Time Warner stock went into a free-fall.

Turner lost nearly $10 million a day for two and a half years. Asked if he ever considered getting out of this, he tells Safer, "But my kids were all in the stock, most of my friends were. So I sat there loyally and went down the drain with everybody else."

To the tune of $7 billion. To Turner, it was "Apocalypse Now." His marriage to Jane Fonda was breaking up, a grandchild was gravely ill, and he was jobless. His five children were worried, that like his father, Turner might take his own life.

"He contemplated suicide. And I was really worried when Jane left him, they took away his job the way they did, he was. That was the lowest I'd ever seen him," Turner's daughter Laura remembers.

"He was really depressed and a lot of other things were happening in our family as well. So it was a really, really tough time for him. And he barreled through it," son Rhett tells Safer.

"And he also got help. He got professional help," Laura says.

She says he went to a see a shrink. "And he said he always left his shrink and he cheered his shrink up. He said he would leave him laughing."

Turner admits he spent more time gallivanting around the globe than he did being a father.

"We never sat down for a meal for more than 15 minutes. I can guarantee you," Rhett remembers. "He'd also give the monologue. The conversation was his through the whole dinner."

"Yeah, after a vacation with Dad, you need a vacation," son Teddy jokes.

Recently, Turner says he has become a better father, and feels his relationship with his children is his greatest achievement.