Ted Turner has made good on his $1 billion pledge to the United Nations and now spends some of his free time picking up trash to make Atlanta a prettier place, he told a group of prominent businesspeople on Wednesday.
The media mogul-environmentalist-philanthropist joined Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell in an unscripted Q&A session following the group’s annual meeting at 103 West. The capacity crowd included a raft of Atlanta, Fulton County and state politicians as well as prominent business leaders and dignitaries.
Massell’s first question and Turner’s witty response set the tone for the relaxed chat. Which did he prize more, Massell asked, academic excellence or entrepreneurial prowess?
“I’d rather be smart and poor than rich and dumb, ” Turner answered.
Cracked Massell: “Have you ever been neither?”
The discussion touched on environmental stewardship, a key interest of Turner’s, and he revealed his hands-on approach to beautifying the city.
“When I go around the block, I pick up trash and carry it to the garbage cans. I do my part to keep Atlanta clean. I try to encourage other people to do the same.”
Turner said he delivered on the pledge he made in the late 1990s to assist United Nations efforts.
“One billion in cash. That’s a lot of money. I found out the hard way, ” said Turner, who jokingly reassured the group how he’s still able to make ends meet. “If you economize and don’t buy new jets every year, you can get by.”
Will he ever join the Buckhead Coalition? Massell tried to seal the deal:
Turner said long, hard hours led to his success.
“For 20 years, I ran the Braves as well as CNN and all the television networks, ” he said. “I would go to the ballpark and I would stay even if they went into extra innings. No matter how much we were down I had to cheer them on. People say, ‘Do you miss (owning) the Braves?’ Yeah, I do. In a way it’s a relief. I don’t think I could have lived much longer.”
After the games ended, Turner said, he’d return to the office.
“For 20 years I lived in my office and I worked 18 hours a day, ” he said. “Not many of you work that hard.”