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The Levin-ing of Ted Turner’s Autobiography

November 16, 2008 8:30 PM

Ted Turner
Like the South from which he hails, Ted Turner will never forget, but at least he’s being a gentleman about it. It’s no secret that Mr. Turner has no love for onetime Time Warner Chairman-CEO Gerald Levin. It was Mr. Levin who engineered TW’s financially disastrous 2000 merger with AOL and—using Mr. Turner’s term—“fired” him as vice chairman of the newly combined company even though he had his hopes pinned on running TBS, CNN and the other TW-owned networks he founded. And while he indeed takes Mr. Levin to task in his new autobiography, “Call Me Ted,” Mr. Turner generously gives equal time to the erstwhile media executive, who retired from TW in 2002 and all but vanished from the business. In one of a series of colleague-penned “Ted Stories” sprinkled throughout the book, Mr. Levin—who tactfully broaches “the force” of Mr. Turner’s personality (he was once known as “The Mouth of the South”) and characterizes him as a “fiery entrepreneur”—says that since Mr. Turner was not interested in “building a bigger company with more Internet activity,” the plan was for him to become “a cheerleader and inspirer” who “would not have to worry about the day-to-day.” Blink thinks if not exactly a firing, that would definitely qualify as a kick upstairs. Although Mr. Turner later details Mr. Levin’s rather ignominious departure from TW, he stops short of rubbing his face in the company’s failures. “We had made a fundamentally bad move by merging with AOL and I didn’t know how to turn the ship around any more than anybody else did,” he writes. n

—Tom Gilbert

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