"I felt like Job [Old Testament]," Ted Turner told Auletta in an article entitled "The Lost Tycoon," in which Auletta has frank conversations with Turner, his ex-wife Jane Fonda, Time Warner's Gerald Levin and Jimmy Carter "Most adults have the support of a spouse and family, friends, and a job," Auletta wrote. "Turner didn't have a spouse, had never had intimate friends, and no longer ran his own company."
Last May, Turner says, he was fired and was informed of the news via a telephone call with Gerald Levin, the CEO of Time Warner, who told him that the company was going to reorganize and that Turner Broadcasting would no longer report to Turner but to AOL executive Robert Pittman.
Turner criticized the merged company, of which he is the largest individual shareholder, and said that he may leave it. At AOL Time Warner, according to Turner, the drive to double operating profits from Turner Broadcasting "up to 39 percent" would affect CNN and its other units.
AOL Time Warner executives said that this is not the case, that the true profit-growth target for Turner Broadcasting is about half of what Turner said it was.
Turner is reportedly so upset with the removal of documentaries from CNN's schedule that he is developing a number of projects that will compete with CNN. His foundation is planning to join PBS and Bill Moyers to produce up to 100 hours of documentaries on world issues that would be broadcast on public television over the next few years.
"I didn't fire Ted," Levin told Auletta. "This is the way we need to run the company."
Fonda, Turner's wife of eight years, agreed that Turner was treated shabbily by Levin.
"The way it was handled was really shocking," Fonda told Auletta. "It makes me mad. How dare they give him a phone call!" Fonda also said that she chose not to tell Turner that she had become a Christian because he would have attempted to talk her out it.
"My becoming a Christian upset him very much. He's my husband and I chose not to discuss it with him because he would have talked me out of it," Fonda told Auletta. "He's a debating champion. He saw it as writing on the wall." She also said that other things got in the way of the marriage, such as her daughter having a baby.
"He needs someone to be there 100 percent of the time," Fonda said. "He thinks that's love. It is not love. It's babysitting. We went in different directions. I grew up."
Turner described his reaction to Fonda's religious turn this way: "I had absolutely no warning about it. She didn't tell me she was thinking about doing it," he said. "She just came home and said, 'I've become a Christian.' Before that, she was not a religious person. That's a shock." Fonda added that Turner was scarred from his childhood that included beatings from his father and that her ex-husband's restlessness and insecurity drove his career.
"I say this with all the love in the world: He has been severely, hauntingly traumatized – he always thinks something is about to be pulled out from him," Fonda said. "He has no belief in permanency and stability. It's one reason why I'm not with him."
Turner said that despite everything, he lost his "best friend" when his father killed himself in 1963.
"I spent a lot of time thinking, and I did not fear, because of my classical background," Turner said commenting in his life. "When Alexander the Great took control when his dad died, he was 20 years old. ... He kept marching. He hardly ever stopped. And he never lost a battle."
Copyright 2001 by United Press International.
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