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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Ted Turner: The Maverick Man

Aired November 17, 2013 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Who thought the world needed 24/7 news?

TED TURNER, CNN CREATOR: I did.

BLITZER: He changed TV news forever.

TOM JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT, CABLE NEWS NETWORK: Most of my colleagues thought Ted was nuts.

JANE FONDA, ACTRESS: Sailing, media, environment, the United Nations.

TED TURNER: A billion is a good round number, you know.

BLITZER: You know, you changed the world.

TED TURNER: Yes, I know.

BLITZER: They called him "Captain Outrageous" and the "Mouth of the South."

LARRY KING, TALK SHOW HOST: There is no cut off between the brain and the mouth with Ted.

DALE MURPHY, FORMER ATLANTA BRAVE: Ted was a little unorthodox and a little unpredictable.

BLITZER: He built a media empire. He won the America's Cup.

TED TURNER: We got to go as fast as we can here.

BLITZER: The World Series.

PHIL NIEKRO, FORMER ATLANTA BRAVE: He put the Atlanta Braves organization on the map.

BLITZER: And the heart of Jane Fonda.

FONDA: I will never love anyone like I -- like I love him.

BLITZER: Before his world came crashing down.

TED TURNER: It's been a very painful experience, obviously.

BLITZER: A journey like no other. LAURA TURNER SEYDEL, DAUGHTER: The fact that he was taken off that focus, allowed him to go to the next important phase of his life. The third act.

TED TURNER: There they are, some of them.

You notice, almost all of them are the same distance apart from the others.

BLITZER: Why is that?

TED TURNER: Well, I was kind of hoping you could tell me.

BLITZER: This is where Ted's next chapter begins -- on one of his 27 properties, spanning two million acres.

Ok, guys. You're talking a little bit too much for me.

FONDA: What he has done is staggering. He's created a template for what men and women who own large tracks of land can do to save nature, to save wildlife.

BLITZER: New priorities. New ventures.

BEAU TURNER, TED TURNER'S SON: You cannot take a business person like my father and just saddle him into a stall. He just doesn't do well sitting around.

TED TURNER: I don't know how to quit. It's not in my genes.

BLITZER: Surprisingly, the Mouth of the South, Robert Edward Turner III was born in Cincinnati, Ohio -- The eldest child of Robert and Florence.

LUCY ROONEY, TED TURNER'S AUNT: He was beautiful. He was just love beyond all else.

TED TURNER: There was a vacant lot, a hollow, down the street with virgin trees in it and a little creek ran through it. I would catch crayfish and put them in a jar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mischief was always around the corner.

CAROL ROONEY MORGAN, TED TURNER'S COUSIN: Yes, yes. Mischief, yes.

We got a call from the house and saying, Grandma McCoy in the middle of the night have walked into her bathroom and screamed, oh, my gosh. Ted brought an alligator and put it in the bathtub.

BLITZER: But there was also trouble at the Turner household. Ted's dad was a good provider but had violent mood swings.

Your dad spanked you with a razor strap.

TED TURNER: A razor strap and a wired coat hanger.

BLITZER: He would hit you like that?

TED TURNER: Yes but on the behind. I mean, it wasn't dangerous or anything like that. It just hurt like the devil.

BLITZER: But it hurt.

TED TURNER: Yes.

DR. RICK ROONEY, TED TURNER'S COUSIN: I was aware that he was treated harshly intermittently. And I had no idea what to do about it or what to make of it. It's that age. But I was sort of troubled by it.

BLITZER: When his dad joined the Navy, Ted it was shipped off to boarding school at the age of four.

FONDA: Well, I will never forget, it was our second date. He told me about his childhood. He turned and looked at me and he said, why are you crying? Because tears were pouring down my face because I knew what it meant in terms of his development as a person, to have had such a really, really difficult early life.

BLITZER: After the war ended, Ted's dad relocated the family to Savannah, Georgia. He bought a small billboard company and renamed it Turner Advertising. He insisted Ted, not yet a teenager, learn the business.

TED TURNER: I worked a full 40-hour week. When I was out of school in the summer the first year when I was 12 years old, he paid me 10 cents an hour.

BLITZER: Tensions grew between father and son and the family fell apart when Ted's 17-year-old sister, Mary Jean, passed away after a long battle with lupus. Her death tested Ted's faith.

TED TURNER: At one point I was going to be a missionary.

BLITZER: When you say a missionary, you know I've known you for a while. Religion is not necessarily something I've associated with Ted Turner.

TED TURNER: No. I -- my faith was shaken when my sister got sick. She was sick for five years before she passed away. And it just -- it seemed so unfair because she hadn't done anything wrong. Christianity didn't give me the answer to that. So my faith got shaken somewhat. I still pray a little bit.

BLITZER: Ted found solace on the water where he developed a love for sailing. By age 11 he was competing in the junior regatta of the Savannah Yacht Club. His parents divorced after his sister's death and his relationship with his father remained strained. When Ted was accepted to Brown University, his dad berated him for not getting into Harvard. He sent Ted a letter that still haunts him today.

TED TURNER: "My dear son, I'm appalled. Even horrified, that you have adopted classics as a major. As a matter of fact, I almost puked on the way home today. I think you are rapidly becoming a jackass. Devotedly, Dad."

BLITZER: What goes through your mind?

TED TURNER: Well, I disagreed with him -- respectfully.

BLITZER: His father stopped paying tuition.

How much after this letter did you drop out of Brown?

TED TURNER: Oh, about a year when I ran out of money.

PETER DANES, COLLEGE FRIEND: His father really wanted Ted to come work for him. You know, to continue the dynasty.

BLITZER: Coming up, the dark legacy of Ted's father.

TED TURNER: He went against everything that he -- that he taught me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: In 1960 Ted Turner left college and his father couldn't have been more pleased.

TED TURNER: He thought I was wasting my time.

BLITZER: So you leave Brown and you go into your dad's billboard business.

TED TURNER: Right.

BLITZER: Ted was a natural from the beginning. And his dad quickly made him manager of the company's Making Georgia branch.

DANES: He was running the billboard company there -- building more billboards, selling more billboards, making lots of money for his father and for the company.

BLITZER: Already one of the biggest billboard companies in the South, Ed Turner took a risk to make it the biggest. He borrowed $4 million, bought out his largest competitor and then, lost his nerve.

TED TURNER: He had kind of a nervous breakdown.

BLITZER: Fear of defaulting on the loan consumed him.

TED TURNER: And he went against everything that he taught me, you know -- be courageous and hang in there. And so, it was -- it really shook me. And then a couple days later, he killed himself.

BLITZER: Ed Turner shot himself in his bathtub in March 1963. The loss left a void Ted has felt ever since.

Are you the man you are today, at least in part, because of your father?

TED TURNER: Sure, sure. One of the things he told me, he said, "Set your goals so high that you can't achieve them in your lifetime."

BLITZER: So he really worked hard to try to instill in you that same kind of competitive goal?

TED TURNER: Yes. And he did a good job of it.

BLITZER: And yet, to this day, Ted has conflicted feelings about his father. The man who inflicted so much pain was also his mentor.

SEYDEL: When that happened, it was like, losing his best friend. And I think that that's one of the things that has driven him like a mad man.

DANES: It was very important to Ted, even when his dad was alive, to try to please him.

BLITZER: But to please his dad, Ted had to do everything his father's way.

TEDDY TURNER, TED TURNER'S SON: If his dad had not killed himself, he would still be working for my grandfather and his grandfather would not have let him do anything new or innovative.

BLITZER: But now Ted could be as innovative as he wanted. Ed Turner had left his 24-year-old son $1 million in assets and complete control in the company.

TED TURNER: After the funeral, I just went to work even harder to try and get it behind me.

BLITZER: Ted had been married for four years. And his hectic schedule was taking a toll on his young family.

DANES: Ted was married to his first wife, had two children. But you know, he was spending all his time, working, trying to save the company, build the company. So it didn't work out.

BLITZER: Divorced, then remarried, Ted eventually had three more kids. But wasn't much of a family man.

SEYDEL: Dad really wasn't around very much. He was either off sailing or he was building his empire.

DANES: He's not really good at the attaboys.

TEDDY TURNER: You know, I don't think my dad told me he loved me until I was 30.

BLITZER: And yet, Ted always wanted the best for his family even if that meant a change of scenery.

JENNIE TURNER GARLINGTON, TED TURNER'S DAUGHTER: My father got us out of Atlanta. When we were pre-teens, getting to the age where diversions come along and so he thought it would be good for us to be raised in the country. So we picked up and moved to South Carolina at the Hope Plantation.

BLITZER: Life at the plantation was challenging.

TEDDY TURNER: Of course when we lived there, there was no air conditioning. There were no showers. There were just bathtubs there. It was living in an old farm house in the woods.

CAROLYN GOOLBY, CLOSE FAMILY FRIEND: They pulled weeds. They painted the barn. He gave them machete knives and he went out with them in the woods to chop down poison oak and poison ivy.

SEYDEL: We were raised in a very frugal manner. I mean Dad always says he didn't get rich from wasting money.

GARLINGTON: Dad had a way of making everything an adventure. At Hope, we had our cougars, Kenya and Kittimes (ph) and then we had two black bear, Yogi and Boo-Boo.

TEDDY TURNER: My dad's never been one to shy away from some danger. I mean you know. He's the one that would send us into the buffalo pasture to run the buffalo up to the front so the guests could see them, you know. Like, who does that?

BLITZER: While his family lived in South Carolina, Ted worked tirelessly at his company's head quarters in Atlanta. To expand his billboard business, he soon acquired several radio stations and then, a small local TV station.

Was that a risky decision?

TED TURNER: Yes because I didn't have any background. I put everything I had into the one television station in Atlanta.

I don't have enough speed.

BLITZER: In his free time, he put everything he had into sailing. The sport he'd loved since childhood.

TED TURNER: That was my sport. I concentrated on it. I worked really hard at becoming a champion in sailing.

BLITZER: And the holy grail of championship sailing was the America's Cup.

RHETT TURNER, SON OF TED TURNER: It took him from 1958 to 1977 to do it. But he had a heavy focus and didn't let anybody get in the way of that.

GARY JOBSON, AMERICA'S CUP CREWMATE: He got crushed in the America's Cup in 1974. So it was kind of the ultimate come back for him.

TED TURNER: It is close. You know, it's always close.

BLITZER: The year was 1977. Ted took the helm and navigated his team to victory after nearly two decades in the sport. His yacht, aptly named Courageous, totally dominated its competition -- winning every race in the best out of seven series.

JOBSON: We finally won. Big hoopla, a thousand boats coming in, thousands of people on the shoreline, champagne everywhere.

And Ted turns to me in the middle of this melee and said, "Hey, Jobson." "Yes." "Wasn't that fun?" Then he said, "This will change your lives." Because we have proven to people, that if we can do this, we can do many other things.

BLITZER: When we return -- Ted Turner changes the landscape of TV news forever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready camera three. One center up.

DAVID WALKER, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm David Walker.

LOIS HART, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Lois Hart. Now, here's the news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Bigger, better, bolder. Ted Turner had significantly grown his business. Won sailing's most prestigious race, and bought a bankrupt TV station.

TERRY MCGUIRK, FORMER CEO, TURNER BROADCASTING SYSTEM: It was a broken down UHF television station in Atlanta -- television at its basest form.

BILL, NEWS ANCHOR: This is 17 Update. Hello, I'm Bill Tiche (ph). How are you tonight?

BLITZER: What next? Using that little station to launch a huge idea.

MCGUIRK: He began to tell me about how he was going to transform UHF television into this new world of satellite television.

TED TURNER: We changed the name of Turner Communications to the Turner Broadcasting System.

BLITZER: Ted renamed the nation WTBS. It became the nation's first superstation. And was one of the first channels of what would evolve into a cable universe with thousands more.

MCGUIRK: In the early days of the superstation, programming still was at a premium. And we didn't have as much as we needed.

BLITZER: And that programming didn't give the small station the national footprint Ted wanted. His solution -- buy a baseball team. The Braves broadcast nationwide on TBS, became America's team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come see the big league team with little league spirit. Hey, we're in Atlanta. MURPHY: We didn't see the future like Ted did. Innovative businessmen create markets. He created one by putting us on TV. He knew eventually we were going to play some better baseball but we need to get this product out there and create that market.

MCGUIRK: When we bought them in 1976 they were terrible. We finished last many more times than we finished in the first division in baseball.

BLITZER: But Ted could even make the best out of a bad situation.

MURPHY: Ted came in to the clubhouse and he yelled across the room, "Murph, don't worry about that slump you're in. You're saving me hundreds of thousands of dollars." In our next negotiation, wait a minute, that's not how it works, Ted.

BLITZER: From the clubhouse, to the dugout -- Ted was there. He even put on the uniform and managed the team for a day.

TED TURNER: I figure this is a good time for me to get down and find out what goes down here on the field.

NIEKRO: I think he might have had the shortest career of a manager in the history of the game.

BLITZER: By 1991 the team has gone from worst to first. Four years later, they were World Series champs.

FONDA: When they won, I'll just never forget. It was one of the great highs of our time together.

BLITZER: As Ted built his super station, he was dreaming up an even bigger idea -- a 24-hour news channel.

TED TURNER: This news service will be called the Cable News Network.

I work until 7:00. And when I got home, the news was over. So I missed television news completely. And I figured there were lots of people like me.

You can do so much more in 24 hours than you can in 24 minutes.

JOHNSON: You've had this maverick down in Atlanta, Georgia who had decided he was going to provide news around the clock, 24 hours a day. Not just at 6:00 when Cronkite or the others would be coming on with the evening news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're a live worldwide news network.

MCGUIRK: We had no background in news. But it was plainly a major genre in cable television that was missing.

TED TURNER: Finally you can see our new Cable News Network head quarters -- 90,000 square feet of the future.

BLITZER: Most thought the idea was crazy.

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People did look upon that as a foolish idea that was destined for failure. But they underestimated Ted Turner.

TED TURNER: We signed on, on June 1. And barring satellite problems in the future, we won't be signing off until the world ends. We will be on, we will cover it live.

BLITZER: Ted had 11 months to get the station on the air.

TED TURNER: We had no bureaus, no cameras, no cameramen, no employees. Not a single one. When we signed on, we had bureaus in Tokyo, Moscow, you know, the whole deal.

I dedicate the news channel for America, the Cable News Network.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stand by. Ready to take --

BLITZER: On June 1st, 1980, CNN aired its first broadcast.

WALKER: Good evening, I'm David Walker.

HART: I'm Lois Hart. Now here's the news.

BLITZER: It took five years and $250 million before CNN turned a corner financially. And Ted was working around the clock to make it happen.

TED TURNER: I lived for 20 years in my office --

BLITZER: -- which was right in the CNN building.

TED TURNER: Right. I lived on a couch in my office the first ten years.

JOHNSON: He was one of us. I mean, he would be in his house coat down having breakfast in the hard news cafe.

BLITZER: Despite his efforts, critics called CNN chicken noodle news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll just go ahead and talk about some sports right now.

BLITZER: And the White House would not even issue CNN press credentials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lift off of the 25th --

BLITZER: Even so, from the start, Ted knew what he wanted.

JOHNSON: Ted didn't care as much about ratings as he did about being the most trusted name in news.

BLITZER: And being a network that had truly global impact.

CARTER: What he was doing was going to affect every state in the nation and every nation in the world.

BLITZER: CNN took Turner to Cuba, to meet Fidel Castro.

PAT MITCHELL, FORMER PRESIDENT, TURNER ORIGINAL PRODUCTIONS: He convinced Castro to open a CNN bureau there.

BLITZER: And even to the Soviet Union where Ted created the Goodwill Games.

TED TURNER: Maybe in a short period of time, this will be kind of a blueprint for how we can go about ending the arms race. That's certainly my dream.

BLITZER: The games lasted for 16 years and helped thaw U.S. relations with the Russians.

CARTER: I think that broke a lot of ice and was a factor in ending the cold car.

BLITZER: Coming up --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going now back to Baghdad.

BLITZER: As the cold war ended, another war would put CNN on the map.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can hear the bombs now, they're hitting the center of the city.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There may be no state of the union tonight.

BLITZER (voice-over): By the '80s, the little network that could was ready for expansion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shut up in here!

BLITZER: So Ted transformed an aging hotel complex in Atlanta into CNN center.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey.

BLITZER: And that wasn't all.

TURNER: We are ready to go to your phone calls. We start in Austin, Texas.

BLITZER: Ted had managed to land talk show host named Larry King.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: One day out of the blue Ted calls me and he said, listen, we would like to have you come to CNN. I had never seen CNN.

BLITZER: That wasn't the only obstacle. Larry already had a job. And Ted wanted him to start at CNN just four days later.

KING: They called the show LARRY KING LIVE. I knew ten minutes into that show, ten minutes talking to Mario Cuomo, that show was going to make it. Ted saw that. Ted saw that.

BLITZER: CNN was growing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here's looking at you, kid.

BLITZER: And so was the rest of Ted's empire. He bought MGM's entire library of films, including his favorite movie "gone with the wind".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.

BLITZER: Then launched TNT, a network that would air them. After that, Cartoon Network, Turner classic movies, and networks in Latin- America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Ted's next conquest would be personal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He and I both (INAUDIBLE) and he told me that he had just heard that Jane Fonda was getting a divorce from her husband and he was thinking of asking her for a date.

BLITZER: Though the ink was barely dry on her divorce papers, Ted made his move.

JANE FONDA, ACTRESS: I picked up the phone, there is booming voice, is it true? Is what true? You and Hayden, are you divorcing? Yes. He said, you want to go out.

TURNER: She said, I'm devastated and I'm don't want to talk about going out.

FONDA: I said, I'm actually in the middle of a nervous breakdown. Call me in six months. I thought, this guy is crazy. This is not what I want to hear right now.

TURNER: I called her six months to the day. She agreed to have dinner with me. It was love at first sight.

BLITZER: Love birds tied the knot at Avalon plantation, Ted's property outside Monticello, Florida.

TURNER: I will.

FONDA: My friends would meet him and get to know him and they would say, he's like a little boy. And it's wonderful and loving and you know, you can't help but love it. But there's also a sadness to it.

BLITZER: A sadness Jane knew too well. She too had lost a parent to suicide and lived through difficult childhood.

FONDA: Among the many things he taught me was to laugh. I come from a family that's a bit on the depressive side.

BLITZER: And Jane helped teach Ted be more involved as a father. FONDA: I spoke to him about my own regrets about not being a better parent. I tried to model for him.

BLITZER: Including at Christmas.

FONDA: I had seen home movies of earlier Christmases that were really not so fun, that were pretty tense.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's put them in the other room, please. Run the TV games upstairs, OK, not downstairs. Bye-bye.

TEDDY TURNER, SON: He had three kids in military college. Very buttoned up. It was a semblance of order. And when Jane came along, all of a sudden, there really wasn't any of this order any more. She knew more about us than our dad knew about it. She did her homework.

PETER DAVIES, CLOSE FRIEND: Our time together was a happy time for everybody. It was kind of like Camelot.

BLITZER: Ted's family life was thriving and business was booming when he hired a Los Angeles times publisher to run CNN.

TOM JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT, CNN: I worked for some really some unbelievably powerful people. Ted rattles my cage.

BLITZER: Things were about to get even more intense.

JOHNSON: It was my second day on the job when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

BLITZER: War was imminent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States strongly condemns the Iraqi military invasion of Kuwait.

BLITZER: The White House urged all news outlets to pull personnel out of the war zone.

TED TURNER: I told the president, that we had freedom of the press in the United States and I was -- as long as I had volunteers that would say, I was going to leave them there.

BLITZER: CNN's Baghdad boys were still on the front lines, even when the war started.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated.

BLITZER: We went on the air, and I was getting reaction from the Pentagon to what they were -- they were all watching CNN.

On January 16, 1991, for the first time in history, a war began live on television and it was only on CNN.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will hear the bombs now. They are hitting the center of the city.

TED TURNER: I still believe that that was the greatest scoop in the history of journalism.

BLITZER: To this day.

TED TURNER: To this day.

BLITZER: Ten years after launching, CNN had become the most trusted news outlet in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: This is CNN.

BLITZER: And Ted was "Time" magazine's man of the year.

TED TURNER: And I was only one of two people who has ever been on the cover of "Time" magazine for one thing, and on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" for another.

BLITZER: Did it ever enter your mind that you would have this enormous success?

TED TURNER: I'm sure I must have thought about it. Dreamed about it.

BLITZER: Becoming a billionaire?

TED TURNER: Certainly before it happened, I knew it was going to, because momentum was there.

BLITZER: The momentum was there. In 1996, Ted sold his media empire for $8 billion and became the largest shareholder of Time Warner, the biggest communications company in the world. Ted was flush with cash, head of the media empire, and husband to Jane Fonda.

But coming up, the bottom drops out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None of us in our wildest dreams at that moment knew that it could end like it did.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): By the mid '90, Ted had sold his beloved company to Time Warner. He was beyond reach, but strip to power.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In hindsight I think it was a mistake.

BLITZER: Ted had a new boss. Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin. The two appeared together on CNN the day they made their deal.

GERALD LEVIN, CHAIRMAN, TIME WARNER: Ted isn't going anywhere. In fact, he is now going to be largest shareholder of Time Warner. And he is going to become the vice chairman.

BLITZER: Ted had braced this diminished role as best he could.

TED TURNER: Everything went fine until we merged with AOL.

BLITZER: Talk after merger came in the 1990s. The dot com was booming and online companies were cashing in. Time Warner execs wanted in on the action. Ted initially pushed back.

TAYLOR CLOVER, PRESIDENT, TURNER INDUSTRIES INC.: Even though he had a significant stake and should have been listened to. I don't think he was listened to.

FONDA: In his deepest self, he knew it was wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This really is a historic moment.

BLITZER: It was the biggest corporate merger ever, $160 billion deal. But no one could predict the burst of the dot com bubble months later. AOL fell flat and the stock price took a nose dive.

TERRY MCGUIRK, FORMER CEO, TURNER BROADCASTING SYSTEM: We were present for the greatest business debacle in the history of American business.

BLITZER: Investors lost more than $150 billion and Ted, Time Warner's biggest stockholder, took a beating.

Your net worth goes from $10 billion to $2 billion. And around that same time as the dot com --.

TED TURNER: It actually went closer down to closer to $1 billion. By then I had given the billion dollars to the U.N.

BLITZER: Time Warner executives restructured the company. Ted was shut out.

TED TURNER: They offered me an extension on my contract. At $1 million a year and I said, what are my duties going to be. They said, you won't have any duties.

JOHNSON: Ted got shafted, and it hurt. The idea that the guy who built all of it and was no longer responsible for overseeing it, mind boggling.

BLITZER: You were quoted as saying, for the first time in my life, I had been fired.

TED TURNER: That's right.

MCGUIRK: None of us in our wildest dreams in that moment knew it could end like it did.

TED TURNER: It has ban very painful experience obviously, because I really loved the company.

BLITZER: To make matters worse, during the tumultuous merger, Ted had been dealing with even more pain, the death of his marriage.

BLITZER: Jane Fonda says to you, I want a divorce. TED TURNER: Yes.

Oh, yes. It was a -- with everything -- everything considered, it was a tough, tough time.

FONDA: I would say for the first eight years it was great. You know, Ted is an exciting person and very funny and very wise. But we always were moving. We lived out of suitcases. I kept saying to him, we need to slow down.

BLITZER: Jane gave Ted an ultimatum, settle down or lose her.

FONDA: And he couldn't do it. If Ted were Ted but without the need to have my constant presence, we would still be together. There's no question about it.

BLITZER: After ten years of marriage, Ted and Jane divorced in 2001. It was like a knife in Ted's heart.

TED TURNER: Terminating our marriage was a very difficult thing to do.

FONDA: And it was very, very sad because we loved each other and I remember when we got the kids together and he announced that we were separating and there were tears, yes.

TED TURNER: I love her very much. And I always -- I always will.

BLITZER: Ted was inconsolable. His family worried about his state of mind.

LAURA TURNER SEYDEL, DAUGHTER: The fact that, you know, he lost Jane and he lost the company all at one time -- I can't even go to that bad place.

BEAU TURNER, SON: I actually called dad and, you know, told him, be strong. The family loves him so much. Just for being better than his father. But don't disappoint yourself by taking this any further, deeper were darker.

BLITZER: That dark scary place; that had pushed his father to the edge.

TODD WILKINSON, AUTHOR, LAST STAND: That was always an option for Ted Turner. One very dark night out here, he contemplated, what is it worth to live one's life.

SEYDEL: Would he start thinking about all the things he was grateful for. Children and his grandchildren, all of the other blessings. And that got him through the thoughts of suicide.

WILKINSON: And he ultimately made it through that night deep in insomnia, deeply depressed, then he saw the rising sun out here in Montana and he thought to himself, you know, I want to live and I want to make the world a better place for them.

BLITZER: Coming up, Ted's nine lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi.

TED TURNER: It was kind of a blessing in disguise.

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TED TURNER: I watch CNN all the time. It's about the only thing I watch. I'm not happy with every bit of it, but I watch it.

BLITZER: He's gone, but he's still trying to run the show.

TED TURNER: And I think we made a mistake taking the ticker off the sports stores.

It was more than just a company to me. It was a way of life.

That's my penthouse up on the roof. And then that's my office right under.

BLITZER: Do you own this whole building?

TED TURNER: Bought it.

BLITZER: You see CNN on your kitchen over there.

TED TURNER: That's right.

I moved two blocks away so I could look out the window. I joked I said if you need me, just put up a white flag and I'll be over there in five minutes.

BLITZER: More than a decade later, still traumatized about losing his baby, the network he built.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: This is CNN.

TED TURNER: I would have voted strongly against the merger with AOL. It's all right, I can take it. It was kind of a blessing in disguise.

JENNIE GARLINGTON, DAUGHTER: Now he can focus on what he wants to do, and it sounds cliche, but save the planet.

BLITZER: The media titan who pioneered 24/7 TV news, devoted himself full-time to his lifelong passions, the environment and philanthropy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to be a fundraiser to raise more money so everybody that's rich in the world, expect a call or a letter from me, because I'm coming after you to get money for the U.N.

BLITZER: He shot to fame in the charity world 16 years ago when he made a shocking and historic billion-dollar pledge to the United Nations, creating the U.N. foundation.

TIM WIRTH, UNITED NATIONS FOUNDATION: Came in the ding room and Ted was way over in the other corner and yells out, hey Wirth, you want to run this foundation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ted immediately had in mind that he wanted to focus on at least two issues, one is reproductive health and population.

BLITZER: In 2001, Ted created the nuclear threat initiative.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He thinks everything's his responsibility.

BLITZER: He enlisted a Senator Sam Nunn to join him in the fight against weapons of mass destruction.

SAM NUNN, CO-CHAIRMAN, NUCLEAR THREAT INITIATIVE: Chemical and biological, making sure we have everything in place to secure nuclear materials.

BLITZER: And over the years, his own Turner foundation has awarded countless grants.

MIKE FINLEY, PRESIDENT, TURNER FOUNDATION: Ted has allowed us to give over $363 million in order to make this world a better place, clean air, clean water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations, Ted and Laura.

BLITZER: Ted's five children are the trustees of the foundation.

SEYDEL: Dad calls it his "Turner-verse" (ph).

B. TURNER: His legacy is his kids, for sure.

FONDA: As he's aging, he wants to know that he will go out with the love of his children and his grandchildren. That may not always have been important to him, but it's important to him now, and so he's doing what he needs to do.

GARLINGTON: He's a great grandfather as well as a father.

We love you, grandpa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Love you, grandpa.

GARLINGTON: We go out and look at the wolves in Montana and grandpa will howl at the wolves and they'll howl back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ted's love of the outdoors has made him perhaps the number one environmentalist that I've ever known.

TED TURNER: I want to be able to sit on the porch and look out and see the reflection in the middle of the lake of the mountains.

FONDA: Our golden pond, yes. BLITZER: At the flying D, Ted's ranch near Bozeman, Montana, he zeroed in on what he thought was missing from his land.

Why do you love the bison so much?

TED TURNER: Because it's a native American animal. And there were no cattle here when the white man came. Trying to restore the native ecosystem.

BLITZER: Ted has made it his mission to save endangered wildlife, like the bison. He started the Turner endangered species fund to make it work.

MIKE PHILLIPS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TURNER ENDANGERED FOUNDATION: The whole idea is to put wild populations back in place. There's nobody out there doing this kind of stuff.

RUSS MILLER, VICE PRESIDENT, GENERAL MANAGER: We've grown our bison herd to a fairly significant amount, 55,000 head of animals. But also it's been profitable, and Ted had that in mind at the outset.

BLITZER: What Ted had in mind was a business venture that could ensure their survival, restaurants that feature bison.

GEORGE MCKERROW, CEO, TED'S MONTANA GRILL: There's 44 in 16 states across the country.

By making them commercial, there's a reason for ranchers to have them. Once we do that, the gene pool starts to expand. We've doubled the size of the herd. The truth of the matter is, and this is Ted's words, not mine, the restaurants have kept me alive. He calls me every morning. He wants to know what's going on. He's involved. You know, it lifts his spirits.

TED TURNER: Don't run out of food.

FONDA: He made sure that if he was no longer the head of this empire that he built, that he would have something to step into that would challenge him and keep him going. I mean, it was genius.

WILKINSON: This last act in Ted Turner's life is his most important one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The book has not been finished here. I can't wait for the next surprise.

MCKERROW: Ted is still on top of the world and thinking about what can be done to make it a better place.

FONDA: We must never dismiss who he is. And who he has been and what he has done for the world is beyond any individual that I can think of and we must never forget that.

BLITZER: And what about a new chapter for Ted and Jane?

Do you love her still? FONDA: Yes.

BLITZER: To this very day?

TED TURNER: To this very day.

You look great.

FONDA: I've thought about it. I have. I can't ever forget the reasons that made me fall in love with him.

KING: If there is a true legend, it's Ted Turner.

MCGUIRK: He broke every mold, he changed the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think we'll ever see another one like him again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The greatest one I ever played for.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing was ever too ambitious for Ted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bold, courageous, risk taker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The great thing about Ted Turner is there's no halfway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I consider him to be one of my best friends.

FONDA: Given his childhood, he should have become a dictator. He has turned out to be a good guy and he's just a miracle. He's a miracle.

BLITZER: It's been a long journey, from the hardships of growing up to a career synonymous with success. But this man who has accomplished so much still longs for approval from the man who drove him the hardest.

TED TURNER: I'd like to show him what I did. I think he would have been impressed. And he was a hard guy to impress.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. We're going to begin with breaking news tonight.

There is untold loss and heartache across the Midwest right now after an outbreak of powerful tornadoes. Kokomo, Indiana, has declared a state of emergency tonight after severe weather hit the city. Both a fire station and a shopping mall are reported to be damaged.

You're looking at the video right now. At least five people are confirmed dead from today's outbreaks of tornadoes. Pekin, Illinois, was just one of many communities in the path of today's storm. And the national weather service says it received more than 70 reports of tornadoes, at least one was a monster ef-4 tornado.