Atlanta -- Gossip columnists of the world, rest
easy: Ted Turner has no plans to go anywhere.
Turner, the voluble vice chairman of Time Warner Inc.,
closed out the National Show here last Wednesday by telling interviewer Larry King that he
has no plans for early retirement, although he couldn't guarantee that early
retirement wouldn't be forced upon him.
"They're going to have to carry me out on a slab,
kicking and screaming," he told King and an audience of show attendees, responding to
a USA Today column last Wednesday that mused about Turner's future plans.
Turner started off with some potshots at his favorite
target, News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch. Egged on by King, he noted that Murdoch's
"wife left him -- and she's a pretty smart woman." He added, "67 is no
time to be dating, I'll tell you." On a more substantive note, Turner said he
disliked Murdoch for being too focused on acquiring power and not focused enough on
serving the public.
Turner also said that while some speculated that he would
eventually try to supplant Time Warner chairman Gerald Levin, he would never "make a
partnership with somebody with a plan to stab them in the back. Not like Murdoch --
that's what he'd do."
As a 10 percent shareholder, Time Warner couldn't fire
Turner, King proposed. But Turner noted that former Continental Cablevision Inc. chairman
Amos Hostetter left U S West Media Group, in which he owns many shares, in a dispute over
moving the company's headquarters to Denver from Boston. "Make me move to Denver
-- I'd move," Turner joked. "I'll move to Denver rather than lose my
Asked if he had ideas for new networks, Turner said
he'd love to start a documentary network to rival Discovery Channel, "but John
Malone wouldn't carry it, probably." Malone is chairman and CEO of
Tele-Communications Inc.; TCI's Liberty Media Group owns 49 percent of Discovery.
As for a story in TheWall Street Journal
last Wednesday about CBS bad-mouthing cable to advertisers, Turner summed it up as,
"sour grapes, basically. You know, losers complaining. They're poor
On the issue of sports rights, Turner said Turner Network
Television used to break even or make a little money on its National Basketball
Association contract, but the new NBA deal is more expensive, so TNT won't take in
enough in advertising revenue to offset the expense.
But the National Football League contract, which TNT used
to share with ESPN, would have been way too expensive to renew. "We didn't feel
that it was fair to the cable subscribers of America to ask them to pay that much for the
Sunday-night game when they were basically getting the other games for free," Turner
said, in one of his most-applauded lines.
He said he's still negotiating with NBC to possibly
back a rival football league, adding, "We'd be a more prudent league."
Would he raid the NFL of its players? Turner said there are plenty of football players
around. "There are lots of good football players. Some of them are a little small.
Size is important in football."