Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Ted Turner Urges "Ol' Skinflints" to Open Their Purse Strings Wider

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Ted Turner Urges "Ol' Skinflints" to Open Their Purse Strings Wider

Article excerpt

MCLEOD, Mont. -- When Ted Turner forked over $200 million to charity two years ago, he felt a tremor.

"My hand shook when I signed the papers," he recalls, about his first big gifts to universities and the environment, "because I knew I was taking myself out of the running for the richest man in America."

Instead of the joy of giving, he was consumed by the fear of falling -- off The Forbes Four Hundred list of wealthiest Americans.

But he learned that giving can be as much fun as making, and now he wants his fellow billionaires -- or "ol' skinflints," as he calls them -- to "open their purse-strings" wider.

"That list is destroying our country!" he bellows cheerfully over the phone. "These new super-rich won't loosen up their wads because they're afraid they'll reduce their net worth and go down on the list. That's their Super Bowl."

America's flashiest extrovert, the Jim Carrey of capitalism, has gone existential on us.

"How many times do you get asked which is your favorite restaurant in New York, your favorite sport, your favorite place to go on vacation?" he asks. "My favorite place is wherever I am! Why do we have to rank everything? Why can't we like a fish restaurant on Sunday and a Chinese restaurant on Monday? Why isn't it better to be the biggest giver rather than the biggest hog?"

The man who raises buffalo here in Montana and businesses in Atlanta, the Rhett Butler romantic who married Jane Fonda, the adventurist who has stacked up amazing achievements in sailing, baseball, television and preserving the condor, peregrine falcon and Western lands, has another great idea. Why not start an annual list of the most generous, offering an "Ebenezer Scrooge Prize" that embarrasses stingy billionaires and "Heart of Gold Award" to honor philanthropists?

Turner, a.k.a. Captain Outrageous and the Mouth of the South, is getting warmed up now. "I talked to both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, the two richest men in the country, and they would be inclined to give more if there was a list of who did the giving rather than the having. What difference does it make if you're worth $12 billion or $11 billion? With a billion dollars you can build a whole university. …

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