Ted Turner: War Is ‘Bad Business’


As the nation readies for war with Iraq, Ted Turner, vice chairman of AOL Time Warner and CNN founder, told attendees at CTIA 2003 here that he believes war is just bad business.

"We've got to spend all of this money to blow up Iraq, and then we've got to go out, rebuild it and pay for that, too. I mean it's really bad business--not to mention that a lot of people are going to get hurt," Turner said.

Turner took the stage during a keynote address by Thomas Wheeler, CTIA president and CEO. Wheeler responded to the media mogul's remarks by noting that the 1991 Persian Gulf War made history--along with a lot of money--for Turner and his CNN news network.

Turner acknowledged Wheeler's points but also emphasized that he now focuses most of his energy, time and money on philanthropy, which includes financial contributions to the United Nations and this week's donation of his $50,000 CTIA speaker's fee to the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

"War has been good to me from a financial standpoint, but I don't want money that way. I don't need blood money," he said. "I don't want to profit on the death and misery of other people. If it comes my way and it's the only way I can get it, I'll take it because what else could I do?"

Though still considering conquerors such as Alexander the Great as great leaders, Turner said he now works harder to emulate heroes of peace, such as Martin Luther King Jr. "I changed over from being a man of war to being a man of peace," Turner said. "I'm doing just the opposite of what our president is doing."

Turner was light-hearted and wry when discussing the mistakes he's made during his career. "You have to learn from your mistakes. I mean, for instance, if you ever have a chance to merge with AOL, stay away from it," he said.

Turner attributed the huge financial losses associated with the merger of Time Warner and AOL to bad timing and other unfortunate circumstances, namely the complexity of combing through too many lines of business. However, he also told Wheeler he would probably remain an AOL board member "a bit longer" but would make a final decision after a Thursday meeting this week in New York. "I'd kind of hate to leave them, you know, right as the war is getting started," Turner said. "Who knows? The war might spread. They might need me there. I don't know what for, but I'm good when things are bad. I don't run."