Ted Turner was uncharacteristically understated Friday as he departed Time Warner Inc., the media conglomerate that swallowed his cable network company and slowly sidelined him as a mover and shaker in the businesses that he helped to create.
The CNN founder told Time Warner shareholders at their annual meeting he regrets not being able to do more for them.
“I just wish the last five years I could have made a bigger contribution,” Turner said. “I hung in there as long as I could. I’ve done my best.”
With that, he borrowed newscaster Edward R. Murrow’s famous sign-off, said “Good night and good luck” and left the Georgia World Congress Center after not standing for re-election to Time Warner’s board of directors.
A video tribute to Turner was played at Friday’s meeting in Atlanta, and later former CNN chief Tom Johnson offered a moving personal tribute, though Turner had left the meeting by that point.
“How lucky we are to have known and still know one of the most remarkable men in world history,” Johnson said of Turner. Time Warner’s chairman and chief executive Richard Parsons promised to get Turner a copy of Johnson’s remarks.
Turner became a director of Time Warner in 1996 when the media conglomerate bought his cable networks company Turner Broadcasting Systems. He long held a prominent role in guiding Time Warner’s affairs, but in recent years complained of being sidelined.
In 2003, Turner resigned as vice chairman of what was then known as AOL Time Warner Inc. Then, earlier this year, he said he wouldn’t seek re-election to the board of what is now known simply as Time Warner. Time Warner, which is based in New York, also owns Warner Bros., HBO, a large cable TV operator and Time Inc., a major magazine publisher.
Turner, 67, now focuses mostly on philanthropic efforts. He is chairman of the United Nations Foundation, which he started with a $1 billion pledge to the agency in 1997, and co-chairs the Nuclear Threat Initiative with former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia. He also owns a restaurant chain that serves bison meat.
At the meeting, shareholders elected 11 other directors to another one-year term, approved the appointment of the company’s independent auditors and approved a stock incentive plan. Shareholder proposals to separate the roles of the chairman and CEO and to institute a code of vendor conduct were rejected, though a shareholder proposal seeking a simple majority voting structure was approved.