Ted Turner bids adieu to Time Warner

MUMBAI: For one so flamboyantly outspoken - he once famously challenged nemesis Rupert Murdoch to a face-off in the boxing ring - Ted Turner's departure from the network he founded was pretty low key.

There were none of the usual verbal fisticuffs, just a relatively quiet fading away for the maverick "former" media mogul as he bid goodbye on Friday to Time Warner inc, the media behemoth that had swallowed the network he created - CNN.

The severing of all direct ties to Time Warner was made official Friday after Turner chose not to stand for re-election at the company's annual meeting.

Expectedly, the two-hour meeting, held in Atlanta instead of the Time Warner's headquarters in New York, was underpinned by the recurring theme of Turner's legacy, which saw more than one senior executive, including chairman and CEO Richard Parsons, giving their eulogies to the now ex-vice chairman.

The fact that all the paens sung about his "legacy" had nothing more than sentimental value was not lost on anyone, including Turner, who chose not to stay till the end of the meeting and left mid-way through it and headed for his home in upscale Atlanta.

And he did throw in a not-so-gentle parting shot before he left saying, “I have been with the company and its successors for 35 years now. I just wished that the last five years, I could have made a bigger contribution. I didn’t have that opportunity, unfortunately, but I hung in there as long as the company, I felt, needed me -- until the class-action lawsuits and the antitrust problems were resolved.”

That about summed up the regret that Turner, 67, now officially part of Time Warner's past, will always carry with him - not to have any say in the world's first truely global news network CNN. Well maybe he still might. After all he remains the company's largest individual shareholder.

But that's not on his mind at the moment anyway. He has his philanthropic work and he has his restaurant chain - Ted's Montana Grill that serves bison meat - as his main priorities. Turner is chairman of the United Nations Foundation, which he started with a $1 billion pledge to the agency in 1997, and co-chairs the Nuclear Threat Initiative with former US senator Sam Nunn of Georgia.

His final words to Time Warner shareholders: “I’ve done my best and, like (famed newsman) Edward R. Murrow said in that great Warner Bros. movie that was just released a month ago, good night and good luck.”

CNN certainly could use some of that luck as it tries desperately to catch up with Murdoch's news ratings leader Fox News, which has left Turner's former network in its wake these past few years.

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