Ted Turner, who founded CNN, sold his cable empire to Time Warner, and became AOL Time Warner's biggest individual shareholder, announced Wednesday that he will step down from his post as the company's vice chairman. His announcement follows the recent news from America Online founder Steve Case that he was also stepping down from his position as chairman of AOL Time Warner, the media conglomerate he helped create by orchestrating America Online's merger with Time Warner three years ago. (All in all, it was a bad news day for AOL Time Warner, which also announced that it was taking a $46 billion goodwill writedown.)
In his statement, the 64-year-old Turner cited his charitable work as the reason for his resignation. ''I have devoted much of my life to philanthropic interests and, more recently, to several socially responsible business efforts,'' said Turner, who has donated more than $1 billion to such causes as environmentalist and nuclear disarmament organizations. ''Over the last five years, it has become even clearer to me how much personal satisfaction I derive from these activities. Therefore, I would like to now devote even more time, effort and resources to them.'' Like Case, however, Turner may choose to remain on the AOL Time Warner board of directors.
Turner, who built a media company that included cable channels (including CNN, Headline News, TBS Superstation, TNT, Turner Classic Movies, and Cartoon Network), a movie studio (New Line, home of ''Austin Powers'' and ''Lord of the Rings''), and the Atlanta Braves baseball team, folded his assets into Time Warner in 1996, becoming the company's No. 2 executive and its largest shareholder. After the 2000 merger that created AOL Time Warner, he remained the top individual shareholder, owning an estimated 3 to 4 percent of the stock. (EW.com is part of AOL Time Warner.)
AOL Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons commented on Turner's departure in a message to employees Wednesday. ''All of us at AOL Time Warner are grateful to Ted for his vision and pioneering spirit,'' Parsons wrote. ''His commitment to journalistic independence and public service is a permanent part of who we are and what we do.Ê I will continue to rely on his wisdom and advice, which will serve our Company well in the years to come.''