Not for nothing did Ted Turner earn the nickname Captain Courageous in his sailing days. As skipper of the yacht Courageous, which won the 1977 America's Cup, he had a knack for snatching victory from sure defeat. In the equally competitive and treacherous world of business, the cable-TV king showed his spunk and resilience once again last week. Just as Turner admitted that his quixotic attempt to take over CBS had capsized, he announced two bold new ventures for the burgeoning Turner Broadcasting System (TBS). The Atlanta-based company (1984 revenues: $282 million) will buy the venerable MGM/UA company for $1.5 billion and become a partner with the Soviet Union in staging and televising an international sports extravaganza called the Goodwill Games.
Unlike CBS, which fought off Turner, financially strapped MGM/UA welcomed his offer, which amounted to $29 a share for the diversified entertainment firm. As a condition of the sale, TBS will immediately recoup about a third of the purchase price by spinning off United Artists for $470 million and selling it back for $9 a share to Financier Kirk Kerkorian, who owns 50.1% of MGM/UA's stock. The slimmed-down United Artists will have few assets other than its film library. In contrast, MGM will retain its extensive film and TV production and distribution operations, including the 24 sound stages on its 44-acre Culver City lot and an impressive library of 2,200 films (including Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Singin' in the Rain and 2001: A Space Odyssey).
Soon after the MGM news broke, Turner arranged simultaneous press conferences in New York City, Moscow, London and Phoenix, which were broadcast live on his SuperStation WTBS, to announce a groundbreaking agreement with the Soviet Union. As Turner grinned at reporters at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, TBS Executive Vice President Robert Wussler clasped hands with Soviet sports officials in Moscow. Turner said that TBS and the Soviets would co-produce and broadcast the Goodwill Games from Moscow next July. The games are expected to draw top athletes from around the world for 160 events, and will be repeated, Olympics-style, every four years if they are successful. In 1990 they would be in the U.S. TBS will provide equipment and transportation to Moscow for the American athletes, while the U.S.S.R. will pick up expenses for most of the other athletes. TBS and the Soviets will split the profits.