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Ted Turner: The thorn in AOL's side
Media mogul plans to become more critical of AOL Time Warner as he vacates vice chairman role.
February 20, 2003: 8:27 AM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - As AOL Time Warner continues to reshuffle management and look for ways to revive its stock price, the company may be facing increasing criticism from Ted Turner, who announced his resignation as vice chairman last month, according to a published report Thursday.

"Now, I have the power of the tongue," Turner told the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail. "I can speak."

Several aspects of AOL Time Warner's state have raised the ire of Turner, the company's largest individual shareholder with a 3 percent stake, including the plunging share price, corporate strategy, the direction of CNN and the elimination of his season tickets to the Atlanta Braves, the New York Times reported.

Turner became the largest AOL Time Warner shareholder through his sale of Turner Broadcasting to Time Warner in 1996 and AOL's subsequent acquisition of Time Warner. The drop in AOL shares has reduced the value of his stake in the company from about $9 billion to about $2 billion, the Times reported.

There also is additional concern that Turner may increase his sales of AOL stock. Merrill Lynch analysts Jessica Reif Cohen recently said that if Turner sold a major part of his holdings, the sale would further dilute the market with shares and put more pressure on the stock, according to the paper.

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Turner sold $20M worth of AOL
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Although people close to Turner said he likes AOL Time Warner's CEO and Chairman Dick Parsons, he has complained that Parsons is too intent on selling businesses in an effort to reduce debt at a time when prices are low and borrowing costs are relatively cheap, the Times reported.

Turner also has said he does not like CNN's emphasis on star anchors in an effort to compete with Fox News, but he did agree with the decision not to merge the station with ABC News.

He also was irked by AOL Time Warner's decision to take away his season tickets to Braves games. There has been talk that Turner may join a partnership to purchase the team, which would raise a conflict of interest issue if he chooses to hold his seat on AOL's board, according to the paper.

AOL Time Warner (AOL: Research, Estimates) is the parent company of CNN/Money.  Top of page

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