Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What's in Ted's garage--and hangar

It’s fitting on tax day that we remember what the titans of industry are driving these days. Take Ted Turner, for instance. The media-mogul-turned-rancher-turned-restaurateur (he’s a principal in Ted’s Montana Grill, the 55-unit bison chain) cleared up the mystery during a presentation in New York last week. “I drive a Prius, that’s my primary car,” the billionaire explained during the “green tour” he and Ted’s CEO George McKerrow, Jr., are currently undertaking to raise ecological awareness within the restaurant business.

The revelation about Ted’s wheels drew some guffaws and murmurs from the audience. This, after all, is a guy who could probably buy Ford or GM, never mind a Rolls, Bentley or Maybach.

“What’s wrong with that?” he challenged the audience when it mumbled about his choice of car.

“So what do you think when you see a Humvee on the road?” asked Deborah Roberts, the ABC News personality who moderated the appearance by Turner and McKerrow.

“Well, I have one Humvee, but I only use it for quail hunting in New Mexico,” he admitted.

Turner also revealed that he takes a cloth bag with him when he shops, so he doesn’t have to get a new plastic or paper one from the store. He also recounted how he’ll pick up litter, both in Georgia, where he sponsors the clean-up of some highways, and outside of the Ted’s unit in midtown Manhattan.

“I’ll pick up a couple pieces of trash if someone’s looking because that has double the impact,” he said. “Someone’ll say, ‘If Ted Turner can pick up trash, so can I.’”

He even noted that he’s mindful of waste when he travels. Other billionaires are buying airliner-sized craft and converting them into private planes. His plane is merely moderate in size, Turner assured what seemed like a decidedly pro-green audience.

Turner is not the only mega-rich person in the restaurant business to drive a Prius, by any stretch. A few years ago, after an industry dinner in Dallas, Norman Brinker and his wife, Toni, waited outside for the valets to bring around their ride. They, too, drove a hybrid.

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