Ted Turner

NET WORTH: $2.3 billion

SOURCE OF WEALTH: TBS, TNT, CNN, MGM, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks

FUNDING AREAS: Environment, Humanitarian Causes

OVERVIEW: Since 1990, Ted Turner has given more than $350 million in grants, mostly to conservation efforts and other environmental causes. Another $1 billion has gone to the United Nations Foundation, and $250 million to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, which Turner also helped to create.

BACKGROUND: Ted Turner had a successful career in broadcasting before his company, Turner Broadcasting System, merged with Time Warner in 1996, with Turner becoming vice chairman, and the head of the company’s cable networks division. He initially supported Time Warner’s merger with AOL, but as its largest individual shareholder, lost as much as $7 billion when the stock collapsed in the wake of the merger. By 2003, he had resigned as vice chairman, and by 2006 he resigned from the board entirely. Turner is also one of America’s largest landowners, with 2 million acres, and also owns 50,000 head of bison, and a chain of restaurants called Ted’s Montana Grill.


ENVIRONMENT: Turner is a major environmentalist. His largest grants include more than $17 million to the League of Conservation Voters, and $2 million to create the Turner Endangered Species Fund. He funds many endangered species organizations, as well as land trusts, conservation societies, the Environmental Defense Fund, and more. Through the Captain Planet Foundation, named for the TV show Turner created, he has funded more 1,800 projects presented by kids to improve the environment in their schools and communities, helped bring Planeteer Clubs to schools, and installed Learning Gardens in schools in Atlanta and California. He even supports the Environment News Trust and the Environmental Film Festival, and has also been an outspoken opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline. 

HUMANITARIAN CAUSES: In 1998, Turner pledged $1 billion to the United Nations to support its mission, and helped establish the United Nations Foundation to administer the funds. The pledge has been largely met now, with annual grants of $50 million to the organization. Another $31 million supported the U.S. Department of State in 2001, to ensure the U.S. fulfilled its commitments to the U.N. Turner also helped found the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and has put $250 million toward the cause. The Red Cross has also received at least $1 million, and he has made significant contributions to the Better World Fund and Heifer International.

WOMEN’S RIGHTS: Turner has given more than $4 million each to Planned Parenthood, and the NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation. He has also donated to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: Though Turner considers Atlanta his main home, he owns 15 different ranches, and is often involved in the communities where he has more personal ties, though he also supports community development more broadly. Most of the grants support organizations that deal with youth, such as Boys & Girls Clubs. Turner also supports other organizations such as Men Stopping Violence and the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

ARTS & CULTURE: On a local level, organizations such as the Atlanta Ballet, the Atlanta Historical Society, the Georgia Boys Choir, and the National Black Arts Festival receive funding. On a broader scale, Turner makes significant contributions to the Smithsonian.

HEALTH: Turner has made nominal grants to major health organizations such as St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, but his biggest effort in health appears to be working with religious groups to fight malaria.

LOOKING FORWARD: For all his grantmaking, Turner still has more money left, and his foundation seems to be a good candidate to receive an major new infusion of funds at some point, with that money supporting environmental causes. And then there is the 2 million acres he owns, which, given his philanthropic profile, could well be converted into nature reserves and land trusts, with funds to support their maintenance. He also sponsors the public forum debate of the National Forensic League, so perhaps organizations like the Innocence Project could be possible candidates.