For years, Turner was a free-standing entity within Time Warner, one of its most important components including CNN, HLN, TNT, TBS and Cartoon Network. All those networks were created under Ted Turner's watch. Under a new restructuring announced Monday, Turner's networks will be splintered into three different newly created entities and the corporate brand name of Turner will effectively disappear in the coming months.
Johnson, who ran CNN in the 1990s, said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey wanted to meet with Johnson and Turner in person. Johnson said he was pleasantly surprised by the offer and said yes.
This meeting, which also included Turner Enterprises CEO Taylor Glover (who is Turner's long-time friend and financial advisor), was something AT&T did not have to do because Turner had not been affiliated with Time Warner since he left the board of directors in 2006. But Johnson said they clearly did it out of respect for Turner and the legacy he created.
“They wanted to reassure us to their commitment to what Ted had built,” Johnson said. “They were very open and very emphatic.”
He said they also told Turner that they would maintain “the editorial independence and journalistic excellence at CNN.”
Ted Turner spokesman Phillip Evans said he was aware of the meeting but did not know the details. Turner Monday did release a statement which reflected how that one-one-one meeting had instilled in Turner confidence in the new ownership team.
"Given I have been out of the cable and television industry for many years now, I trust Randall Stephenson, John Stankey and the executive team will do what is best for the company, its businesses, and most importantly, its employees,” Turner said.
Johnson said only about six people even knew this meeting even happened.
A spokesperson for the corporate Turner operation declined to comment.