Wednesday, February 25, 2009

February 25, 2009
Finished "Call Me Ted" last night. The book got less interesting after the AOL-Time Warner collapse. Turner rides off into the sunset, so to speak, with several hundred million dollars (as opposed to the $8 billion he had at the height of his empire in 1999, when he calculated his stock value was increasing by $10 million a week!), but the heady swashbuckling of the early years gives way to saving the planet stuff, which isn't nearly as exciting or interesting.

But the warning tale, to me at least, is his merger with Time-Warner and why he did it. He had been an outsider all his life, fighting the northern elites in prep school, all the way through his broadcasting forays as he built, brick by brick, an alternative universe on cable (which at that time was considered a ghetto by the snobs in New York). At every turn the elite underestimated his tenacity to win and he overcame almost every obstacle they threw at him. Yet, ultimately he craved their legitimacy and he was driven to own one of the original networks (in the eighties, CBS took a poison pill to avoid a hostile takeover by Turner), so when he finally brokered a merger with Time-Warner, even though he was the largest stockholder, he was also part of a big, corporate viper's nest of egos and manipulative office politics. And when the head of Time-Warner, Jerry Levin (allegedly Turner's "best friend"), secretly brokered a partnership with AOL, Turner was cut out of the loop, isolated and demoted. He was of course devastated, suffered from anxiety (both his marriage to Jane Fonda and his business coup de grace happened in January of 2000). He had bested the elite in almost every battle, and yet when he finally joined them, they cut him off at the kneecaps.

The two guys who betrayed him, Levin and Steve Case of AOL, eventually were knee-capped as well, but essentially, Turner, the rogue knight, slashed his way to the top, handed over his sword, only to have his head handed back to him (and detached with HIS OWN sword!). Scary stuff to anyone with ambition to build a media empire, no matter how modest.

His greatest strength turned out to be his greatest weakness.


Did three more sketches after I got home last night:

That's an Ed Mell poach at bottom (off of his March 7 art show catalogue which came in the mail yesterday), Rosario Dawson on the cover of the Style section in The New York Times) and a certain cowboy—John Wayne—looking through a window from an early movie still)

"Nobody gets it how they want it to be."
—Jackson Browne, "Running On Empty"

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post your comments