MEDIA MAN: Ted Turner's Improbable Empire

Ken Auletta, Author . Norton/Atlas $22.95 (160p) ISBN 978-0-393-05168-1

Auletta wrote an excellent New Yorker profile of media mogul Turner in 2001, but this expanded look at the complex figure lacks depth. Auletta describes how Turner, an "obstreperous" Southerner, changed television by turning a tiny Atlanta UHF station into a national cable powerhouse. He covers Turner's other professional moves, such as the launch of CNN and the sale of his company to Time Warner, and addresses darker moments, too, illuminating Turner's difficult childhood under a domineering father, and, later, his divorce from Jane Fonda. To write this retrospective, Auletta conducted nearly 20 hours of taped interviews with the executive. Unfortunately, it seems the author didn't use much of that transcription. Although he touches on Turner's major life events and business decisions, Auletta provides what feels like an executive summary of a much larger, more satisfying book. In describing Turner's education at Brown University, he gives scant detail about quirks and high points, then notes, "He was a first-class jerk." Sections on Turner's business acumen—the real meat of his life—receive the same glossed-over treatment. Turner's tale doesn't unfold naturally, but rather, progresses like a PowerPoint presentation. The biography is loaded with detail, but very little personality—unfortunate, given its fascinating subject. 6 photos. Agent, Esther Newberg. (Sept.)

Forecast: A PBS documentary on Turner airing in October could bump sales.

Reviewed on: 08/09/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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