Call Me Ted Book Review: Biography of Billionaire Ted Turner

by Accessory To Success May 30, 2022

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Call Me Ted is an autobiography written by Ted Turner, an American businessman. He wrote the book over a period of three years, with the help of Bill Burke and it was released on November, 10, 2008. Turner started working in his father’s billboard company at a very young age every summer. When he eventually took it over he worked hard and turned it into an international media empire. The company created the first news channel CNN, TBS, and many more.

In the book Ted has also discusses some of his controversial business moves like the merger of Time Warner with AOL, which was disastrous. The book dives into Ted Turner’s personal life, including the suicide of his father, his sister’s death and his marriage to Jane Fonda.

Learn From Billionaire Ted Turner

Ted’s book is quite inspirational and there are so many things you can learn from this book. You can take some of the points and apply them to your real life. Some of the few points worth noting from this book include:

  • Teaching childhood lessons about hard work can last a lifetime
  • Being successful requires taking risks, good leadership, networking, business skills, toughness and dedication
  • When the bar is set high, people do their best
  • Life is always going to present you with many victories and defeats, you just have to keep going
  • Be optimistic about life
  • A favorite quote is “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise”
Ted Turner Biography

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Ted Turner Biography


The biography of Ted Turner is the story of a rebellious youth turned multi-billionaire. Deal after deal is done to level up his business.


Call Me Ted Book Summary

Whenever employees at CNN or other people from businesses that Ted Turner ran met him, he would always say “Call me Ted”. This became a mocking formality and it showed how open he was. On the contrary, Ted was never open about his thoughts and feelings. In the book Call Me Ted he opens up and tells the readers that he doesn’t like living in the past and that’s why he never opens up.

Call Me Ted Quotes “Whether you’re talking about a person or a country, it’s okay to be rich and it’s okay to be powerful, just as long as you’re humble and cooperative. But if you combine being rich and powerful

His early achievements were significant considering the challenges he had to go through as a child. Ted’s father was abusive and beat him up badly and once even made the situation worse by asking Ted to beat him back. His father had a temper and was an alcohol chain smoker. A challenging childhood like this is shared by billionaire Kirk Kerkorian. Learn more about Kirk in his biography The Gambler.

His mother left him and his father in Atlanta. She went to her family home in Cincinnati to seek help from her family members in raising her daughter. Ted’s little sister had severe brain damage due to an autoimmune disease and encephalitis. She suffered from a lot of pain, which led to her early death and this shocked the family. The loss of his father and sister impacted him emotionally for sure.

He would work for his father while learning life lessons as he grew up. This included walking through muddy fields trying to find the right place to put billboards. He got the respect of the other workers at this time and his father was specific about not giving him special treatment. It served him well in that he knew how to work hard and always did. Ted had grit. Something Angela Duckworth describes in her book GRIT.

Call Me Ted Quotes “Life is a game. Money is how we keep score.”

Ted Went to military school and had a very hard time following the rules. He was constantly breaking the rules and getting in trouble. Overtime though he began to fall in line, grow up, and become an exceptional student. He attributes a good amount of his discipline to this time in his life. Being raised strict can lead to strong minds apparently because Zappos founder Tony Hsieh had a similar experience with strict parents. More about that in his biography Delivering Happiness.

In his time at the helm he grew the billboard company, but quickly realized that opportunity was everywhere. He was buying businesses and expanding constantly. You would think that a guy who owns the Braves and the Hawkes would be excited to share a lot about it, but these transactions get a small portion of the book dedicated to them. He just did so many deals throughout his life. Very similar to Ken Langone in his book: I Love Capitalism!

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Turner Advertising began merging with radio stations to grow the business, but Ted soon saw that Television was going to take over. Ted battled his board to buy a television station in Atlanta and turned it around from being a poorly run unprofitable business to the opposite. Once on its feet, Turner again looked to expand WTCG and expand he did.

Call Me Ted Quotes “It was okay for people to write negative things about me just  AS LONG AS THEY SPELLED MY NAME RIGHT

The station soon reached Alabama, Florida, many more, and renamed the channel the SUPERSTATION. Selling memberships was challenging, so Ted figured out how to drive more revenue without changing the business. He found direct response advertisers that would end up proving very successful, profitable, and bring the company back to good standing.

Turner was a visionary and always looking forward. He turned his sights on cable news which at the time he felt wasn’t over saturated. This is when CNN (Cable News Network) was born. It was news 24/7 and began to lose money right away. As always though, Turner turned it around.

Call Me Ted Quotes “All my life people have said that I wasn't going to make it.”
Now that Ted had his arms around cable, he set a BHAG, a big hairy audacious goal. This is found in the book Built To Last. The goal was to merge with a major network like NBC, CBS, or ABS, but it was not in the cards yet.

In an effort to continue to grow, Ted made a deal with Kirk Kerkorian to buy MGM. This transaction is also chronicled in Kirk’s biography The Gambler. Doing this deal would push Turner to the brink on debt. Ted needed to get debt under control of he would lose the company to Kirk. Unfortunately and fortunately for Ted he would end of doing a deal with Kirk to sell back part of the company for a $300mm loss, but it lightened his debt load so it worked out for him.

Call Me Ted Quotes “If you can get yourself where you're not afraid of dying, then you can move forward a lot faster.”

In an effort to grow the company he would end up bringing together 30 cable operators to buy the companies shares for $567mm. This cash represented 37% of his company and removed his veto power and ability to push things through. Now that he had sufficient funds, he was able to launch TNT. The year was 1988. It wasn’t until years later that he would be denied another expansion opportunity.

Ted almost made a deal with Warren Buffett and Tom Murphy, but they didn’t want to buy a movie studio and Ted did. Ted wanted production and he thought he would get economies from it. The meeting was going well until Ted, who was told not to, mentioned the studio. This immediately sources Warren to the deal. Ted wanted it that way. He was very honest and straightforward. More about Warren’s investing strategies in the book Life Lessons.

Ted eventually made a deal with Time Warner. In the process of building efficiencies they began a merger with AOL. The future was the internet and Ted wasn’t really a part of it. This legendary merger is well chronicled in The Third Wave. Steve tells the story of the Time Warner x AOL merger along with many other great stories. Jack Welch also discusses this in his biography Straight From The Cut. At the end of his time in the merger, he was put on an ice float, resigned and sold his shares.

When it comes to his family life, Ted has had issues with commitment and obligation. As a result, he has been in multiple failed marriages. He always seemed to pick his business & sailing over his family. This is common for most billionaires from what we have read.

In the book Turner is displayed as a visionary leader who made mistakes, but has always been ready to work harder than his competitors. This is something that both he and Tony Hseih share. More about Tony the Zappos founder in his biography Delivering Happiness. Ted works hard to turn crazy ideas into successful organizations.

About The Author Ted Turner

Robert Ted Turner, the author of Call Me Ted was born on November 19, 1938. He is an American businessman, media mogul and philanthropist. One thing that Ted is famous for is his gift of $1billion to the United Nations. He is also popular because he is the founder of CNN, TBS and many more media companies. After reading Call Me Ted, which is a typical Ted Turner biography you will have learnt how he became the most successful man in media and cable network industry.

Ted's boisterous and unique style made one of the most well known business persons in the world. Along his numerous accomplishments, Turner was once the richest man in the world and he revolutionized the television business. Ted can be described as an innovative entrepreneur, philanthropist, nonconformist, and a business legend. For the first time in this book he reveals his personal life, without sparing any details or feelings.

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