Ted Turner donates $1 billion to 'U.N. causes'
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September 19, 1997
Web posted at: 12:10 a.m. EST (0510 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- CNN founder and Time Warner vice chairman Ted Turner announced Thursday night that he will donate $1 billion over the next decade to United Nations programs.
Turner made the announcement at a dinner held in New York by the United Nations Association-USA to honor Turner for his contribution to the international community. He was presented the Global Leadership award by the group.
Speaking of his gift, Turner said, "this is not going to go for administration. This is only going to go for programs, programs like refugees, cleaning up land mines, peacekeeping, UNICEF for the children, for diseases, and we're going to have a committee that will work with a committee of the U.N. The money can only go to U.N. causes."
The donation will be made in 10 annual installments of $100 million in Time Warner stock, he said.
"Present day value that's about $600,000," he joked.
The 56-year-old Turner also joked that he was about to be named to Forbes magazine's list of the top 25 richest Americans, "and I'm going to push myself down the list."
'A billion's a good round number'
During his speech at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel, Turner said that he made the decision to donate the money only two nights ago. He said it was based on the increase in his net worth since the beginning of the year.
"When I got my statement in January," he said, "I was worth $2.2 billion. Then I got another statement in August that said I was worth $3.2 billion. So I figure its only nine months' earnings, who cares?"
Speaking live later with CNN's Larry King, Turner said, "I'm no poorer than I was nine months ago, and the world is much better off."
Asked how he came to pick the figure $1 billion, the irrepressible Turner said, "A billion's a good round number."
From one station to a colossus
Starting in 1970 with a single UHF television station in Atlanta, Turner grew a global colossus that includes a smorgasbord of cable channels, movie studios and professional sports teams. He started his TBS satellite superstation in 1976 and CNN in 1980.
As a yachtsman, Turner was skipper of the boat that won the
America's Cup in 1977.
In April, Turner chided fellow billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett for not donating more money to charity.
"What good is wealth sitting in the bank?" Turner said at the annual meeting of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. "It's a pretty pathetic thing to do with your money."
Turner said the gift was based on the money he'd made from the Time Warner stock he received when Turner Broadcasting merged with Time Warner to form the world's largest communications company (and CNN's parent company as well).
He said the decision was to give the money based on the value of the stock, but that it is possible the stock will increase in value and "Who knows, I might get a little money back from this deal."
'You have to learn to give'
In 1996, Turner gave away $28 million, according to a survey by Fortune magazine. The money went to Worldwatch, the Bat Conservation Society, Friends of the Wild Swan and hundreds of other environmental causes.
Turner told King that he has discovered "the more good I do, the more money has come in. You have to learn to give. You're not born to give. You're born selfish."
Turner said he wanted to donate the money directly to the U.N. but was told by his lawyers that would not be legal. The U.N. cannot legally accept money from individuals, so Turner will create a foundation to spend the money and administer the programs.
The programs are expected to focus on jobs, land mines, education and global warming. When King asked about global warming, Turner said, "Haven't you been outside lately? It's hotter than hell out there."
Turner also said he intends to become a fund-raiser for United Nations causes "so everybody who is rich can expect a call."
Alvaro de Soto, the U.N. assistant secretary general for
political affairs from Peru, said Turner's gift "symbolizes the
best of what we all admire in America. I can only hope that his
gesture will inspire many."
'The world is awash in money'
"There are so many rich guys in the world, billionaires," he said. "The world is awash in money and nobody knows what to do with it. We don't want the money they know what to do with, just the money they don't know what to do with."
"Did you talk to Jane Fonda about this?" King said.
"Yeah, two nights ago when I thought of it in a hotel room here in New York," Turner said.
Asked her response, Turner was momentarily quiet. "It brought tears to her eyes," he said. "She said, 'I'm proud to be married to you.'"