“I wouldn’t have moved the Braves to Cobb County,” the 75-year-old “mouth of the South” said during a “fireside chat” with Tino Mantella, association president.
The event was at the Cobb Galleria Centre, just down the road from where the proposed $672 million Braves stadium will be built.
State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), who introduced Braves executives and county Chairman Tim Lee last summer over a meal at the Marietta Country Club, observed after the meeting that the Braves were leaving a stadium named Turner Field.
“Secondarily, Ted’s kind of an in-town kind of guy,” Ehrhart said. “His politics don’t really line up with Cobb County. That’s probably why he said it. I don’t think he’s being mean or nasty, I just think he’s one of those guys that says what comes to his mind. He’s not a suburban kind of guy, I don’t think.”
Ehrhart said he wouldn’t lose any sleep over the remark.
“That’s kind of like worrying about what some of the Atlanta newspapers think,” Ehrhart said.
Lee said he took no offense to the remark either.
“He brought CNN to Atlanta, he brought the Braves to Atlanta, he made the Braves a national force to reckon with when he went to putting it on satellite, so he’s just born and bred and in love with everything city of Atlanta, and I totally understand his commitment, and I totally understand his dedication to Atlanta,” Lee said. “I just think he loves the city of Atlanta like no other and he’d like to see everything happen there.”
Lee also said the new Cobb County home of the Braves would not be named Turner Field. The franchise plans to solicit bids for naming rights sometime next year.
On being canned and breeding bison
Turner said his biggest mistake in business was merging Turner Broadcasting with Time Warner, which was later purchased by AOL.
“That cost me 95 percent of my wealth,” he said. “But I don’t think I could have carried the day because the Internet was so hot at that time that I don’t think I could have stopped it.”
After he was “canned” at the age of 65, Turner said he wasn’t ready to retire, which is what spurred him to begin the Ted’s Montana Grill chain known for its bison meat.
“The restaurant business is the easiest business in the world to enter, and it’s one of the hardest to be successful at, and after 10 years, we lost money every year, and then we finally turned a corner last year and managed a small profit, and we’re going to make a killing now,” he said.
As the second largest landowner in the U.S., Turner said he began with three male and two female bison. He now has a herd of 55,000.
“Basically, I did it because I really like bison and they were close to extinction, and when I got into selling bison commercially there were only 30,000 bison in the world, now there’s close to 600,000,” he said.
Why billionaires are no longer cool
Mantella pointed out that Turner had given $1 billion to the United Nations and had encouraged others such as Warren Buffet to contribute to philanthropic causes.
“If you really study it carefully there’s really not anything better you can do with a large amount of money, if you have a large amount, than give it to those less fortunate than yourself,” Turner said.
He emphasized he didn’t invent philanthropy.
“Several thousand years ago, somebody said it’s more blessed to give than to receive and all I was doing was following instructions,” he said.
Mantella said Turner was one of the few to have done business with nations across the world including North Korea.
“It’s really kind of dumb to bomb your customers or even threaten to bomb them,” Turner replied. “I think it’s time to put the use of force behind us and do like the United Nations does with working on cooperation and working together. We’d get a lot further. It’s better for business and what’s good for business is good for Georgia.”
There’s more opportunity today, he believes, than 25 years ago.
“See, I was there with the cable and satellite revolution and that’s been overtaken now by the Internet revolution, and so there’s really more opportunities. There’s Facebook and the other current high tech companies, so many billionaires have been created it’s just really not even cool to have a billion dollars.”
Mantella begged to differ, provoking Turner to say, “Well I’ve done it so I know. The best thing you can do with your money is to give to those less fortunate and enjoy them smiling because they’ve got the things they really need that they didn’t have before.”
A more dangerous place to live
The world is a more dangerous place since he last spoke at the Technology Association of Georgia 10 years ago. Turner lamented the relationship between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine.
“They have thousands of nuclear warheads on hair-trigger alert as we do, and we’ve got to be very careful and respectful of each other because of the power that we both have to destroy the world,” he said.
As a younger man, Turner kept bronze busts of Alexander the Great and Admiral Horatio Nelson on his desk, but those have since been replaced with busts of Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. Most people don’t want to see another Hiroshima or Nagasaki, he said.
“It’s hard for us to get away from it because we have such an entrenched military industrial complex, which President Eisenhower warned us against, but we haven’t accepted that the way we should, we should be acting like civilized human beings, educated, civilized human beings, not a bunch of savages,” he said. “Savages with nuclear weapons, that’s the worst combination.”
Turner touted renewable energy as “the No. 1 priority,” calling for the U.S. to move away from fossil fuels. He spoke of his partnership with Southern Company in their roll out of solar panels.
“I think they realize, as we do, that that’s where the future is,” he said.
Turner said he didn’t know what would happen to the traditional television industry in the next five to 10 years with things such as Internet streaming.
“If we don’t get the energy situation taken care of and we don’t rid the world of nuclear weapons while we have a chance to do so it won’t make much difference because those are not survivable issues,” he said. “We have all the tools that we need to survive and prosper if we just use them.”