ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Ted Turner told a gathering of cable television executives that he regretted selling the company he founded, Turner Broadcasting Systems, to Time Warner.
Bringing Time Warner in as a partner was “the biggest mistake I ever made,” Mr. Turner said. The move was prompted by the debt TBS, which includes CNN, took on after buying MGM in the 1980s.
The deal and the subsequent sale of TBS to Time Warner in 1996 loosened his grip on the company. Mr. Turner was further sidelined after Time Warner merged with America Online earlier this year, although he holds the title of vice chairman.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams I would lose my job,” he said at the gathering Wednesday. Young entrepreneurs should be warned: If you sell your company, prepare to leave it, Mr. Turner said.
Had he bought Time Warner, he said with a smile, “I could have fired Jerry Levin before he fired me.” Mr. Levin was head of Time Warner when it bought Mr. Turner’s company and now is chief executive of AOL Time Warner.
Mr. Turner agreed that at one time, “I was his friend, I would have had a hard time firing him. At that time.”
Asked for Mr. Levin’s reaction yesterday, AOL Time Warner spokeswoman Tricia Primrose said “We don’t have any comment.”
Mr. Turner recounted his frustration over failing to buy a broadcast network and deals he came close to striking for ABC, CBS and NBC. “But they all eluded me,” he said, illustrating the outcome by reaching out and grasping at the air.
Once fearing that his tombstone would read that he “never got a network,” he’s now expecting something else: “I have nothing more to say.”
Industry members were in Anaheim for a trade show.
Mr. Turner, who is 63, has acquired a Montana ranch and other extensive land holdings over the years and has been active in philanthropy, giving away $250 million last year.