Take Pity on Ted Turner

Every day we hear more news about the sad state of the U.S. economy.  I know things are really bad, having read about the millions of people looking for work and personally knowing some who have been laid off over the past year.  Last week I learned just how terrible it truly is in human terms, though, when Ted Turner revealed he is down to his last billion, or two, dropping to number 196 on the most recent Forbes 400 list.

There are thousands of stories across the country about Americans suffering the effects of layoffs, extended unemployment, and foreclosure. Recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show double-digit unemployment for many groups including teenagers and men over the age of twenty. The situation is bleak. It has to be if even billionaires are whining about their circumstances.

In an interview last week with Bloomberg News, Ted Turner, one of the richest men in America, echoed the mood of the country by saying he is really bummed that he has a mere “couple billion” dollars left. He discussed the pain of losing his job at Time Warner and control of the cable channel he founded, as well as losing his wife Jane Fonda and about $7 billion of his fortune. Turner said, “It was like having my heart ripped out.”

Turner can’t blame the loss of his fortune on the economy though. According to the Bloomberg piece, the loss of $7 billion was due to a 60 percent drop in Time Warner stock following the 2001 AOL merger.

He also gave much of his money away -- a $1 billion pledge to establish the United Nations Foundation alone.  He said:

If you were around at the time, I gave everybody a hundred thousand dollars if they came up with anything. I just couldn’t hold onto it. I wanted to keep it moving. I get a dollar, I give it to you, you spend it, somebody else gets it. You know, pass it around. You know, it’s kind of like a joint -- you just pass it around, light it up, you know, share with your friends.

I guess his version of sharing the wealth didn’t turn out so well.