Daily Archives: February 5, 2009

Call me Ted by Ted Turner

Have you ever wanted to know what it feels like to be an insufferable egomaniac? This is your chance. Call Me Ted¬†is all about Ted, all the time, all wonderful and all clever. Me, myself and I… To be sure the word “I” will, by necessity, occur often in an autobiography but the sentences of this book seem to have no other subjects. Even the dedication is egocentric, calling his children his “accomplishments”, when it’s pretty clear from the narrative that, other than the all important gamete contribution, he did not overexert himself in raising them, leaving his (second) wife to raise five children under 8 years of age (including two stepchildren), alone during the week while he worked and during weekends while he sailed. Goodness! Also, he somewhat touchingly adds short vignettes throughout the book “written” by relatives and business associates (I supposed written by the ghost author since they are strikingly consistent in style), vignettes¬†that are paeans to his great business acumen and overall mensh personality. They read like LinkedIn recommendations and it’s not clear what purpose they serve: does he need reassurance? proof that he indeed has friends?

Once you get over the hero worship the book is quite interesting. Ted Turner did not start from nowhere: his dad conveniently bequeathed him a billboard company, which he cleverly turned into CNN. (As an aside, his dad beat him up as a child and it’s not clear why he would return to work for him after his dad refused to pay for his last two years of college. One of the many contradictions in the book and the man.) He makes it very clear that he consistently took insane risks in business, which mostly paid off (but not always, most spectacularly in the case of the merger with AOL) but also in his private life, as in the two occasions when he had to be rescued by the Coast Guard, having chosen to stay out in bad storms against others’ sage advice. He also has an amazing ability to take full credit for any successes (and why not?) while squarely laying the blame for failures on others (the AOL board, the America Cup boat builder).

I would skip the AOL board battles to oust him (rest assured: it’s not his fault!) and enjoy the rest of the wild ride.

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