Ted Turner, one of cable’s founding fathers, reminisced on his eventful life during a funny, rambling and occasionally sad speech before the Hollywood Radio & Television Society Thursday.
Turner frequently mentioned the sale of Time Warner to AOL, which he said he never thought was a good idea.
"Young people: don’t think that just because you’ve had a series of success in your life, that doesn’t mean you can’t get on board a major disaster," he joked, referring to the merger that eventually saw him phased out of the company and turned into a minor shareholder. That transaction ultimately cost him 85% of his once $9 billion fortune, he said.
Still, Turner isn’t one to give up, and he’s recently started a chain of restaurants, Ted’s Montana Grill, to take advantage of the glut of bison that now live on land he purchased and preserved.
Philanthropy has become an important focus for Turner, a graduate of military school and the son of a Naval officer, although he says he’s had to cut way back on it since AOL-Time Warner stock has plummeted.
"I think you find what you are looking for in life," he said. "The way to find a friend is to be one."
If he made a mistake along the way, "it was that I put too much faith in human nature, but I’d rather go through life thinking the best of people than the worst."
The next HRTS luncheon is with ABC news anchor Ted Koppel on April 20, and Jeff Zucker, head of NBC Entertainment, News and Cable, will be the subject of HRTS’s first annual roast on the evening June 9.
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