Ted Turner, who for a while seemed like the forgotten man of Time Warner, has resurfaced in an unex-pected role. Insiders have been trying to figure out whether the outspoken Atlantan would try to galvanize the me-dia leviathan, of which he is the biggest stockholder. But while Turner has been busy accepting awards and hunt-ing, he has been uncommunicative about his corporate plans.

Now comes a sudden fusillade of carefully placed “leaks” casting Turner in the role of the Great Cost-Cutter. Vari-ous sources have gone out of their way to spread the news that it’s Turner who is principally responsible for Time Warner’s decisions to sell two of its six corporate jets, its helicopter and even much of the corporate art collection. Both the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times coincidentally carried stories Jan. 10 emphasizing that Turner was “turning the screws,” to use the words of one “insider.”

Apparently Turner even advocated the hiring of a management consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., to help find economies and reduce entertainment perks.

These moves, of course, represent a significant deviation from the Steve Ross era, when Time Warner became renowned for high salaries and spectacular perks. The silver-haired, smooth-talking Ross was revered as an empire- builder and corporate visionary. Apparently, Turner had different role models.

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