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Finally parking himself beside the Oscar for Gone With the Wind he acquired when he bought the MGM film library in 1986, he asks, "So, what's this story about? " This is the grandiose and profane Ted Turner we have come to expect in the nearly 30 years since he first burst onto the public stage, a brash young man with a big mouth and crazy ideas.He still has both of those, but he's now troubled by a new sensation: a feeling that he's lost control.Assorted do-gooders, they're all involved in their father's philanthropic endeavors. In January, when he announced that he would retire from AOL Time Warner at the annual shareholders' meeting in May, most people viewed the move as an inevitable result of his diminished status within the company.
Beau Turner, 35, Ted's youngest son, says that last summer, when AOL Time Warner stock fell below , he worried that his father might be contemplating suicide. Don't take your own life.' He smiled at me and said, 'You don't have to worry about me doing something that extreme.'" Turner is confronting the awful reality that he is running out of time.
Turner rode the stock down as the company's troubles, including onerous debt and accounting problems, piled up.
"I'm the stupidest person in the world not to have sold earlier," Turner says.
The one that caused him to quit, he reveals here, was quite specific: Neither CEO Richard Parsons nor anyone else among the AOL Time Warner brass consulted him about a change in the top management of CNN.
(Network chief Walter Isaacson resigned, and Jim Walton replaced him.) "It was the final straw," Turner says. Following this flap, Turner's friends were betting that he would quit AOL's board of directors as well. "Yes, I do give a damn," Turner says, his Gable-esque mustache crowning his smile.
That was in 1997--when the world was, as he marveled at the time, "awash in money" and when his Time Warner holdings had appreciated by that amount in just nine months.