AOL Time Warner Pulls Plug on Goodwill Games

The Goodwill Games, the sports event created by media mogul Ted Turner in the waning days of the Cold War, have been scrapped by AOL Time Warner Inc. after racking up millions of dollars in losses.

The multi-sport games, organized by Turner after the Olympic boycotts of the 1980s, were aimed at promoting peace and brotherhood by bringing together top athletes from countries such as Cuba, the former Soviet Union and the United States.

The move by AOL Time Warner comes as the world's largest Internet and media company aggressively looks to cut costs in order to meet financial targets amid the economic slowdown and the worst advertising slump in recent history.

"Turner Broadcasting remains fully committed to major sports properties as a big part of who we are and what we do," said Jamie Kellner, the head of Turner Broadcasting System Inc., who was brought in earlier this year in a move that sidelined Turner.

"However, after reviewing the business of the Goodwill Games, we determined that our viewers will be better served by reallocating the resources necessary to pull off the Goodwill Games into other sports opportunities," Kellner added.

The games, which were first held in Moscow in 1986, reportedly lost about $150 million. The last of the games was held in Brisbane, Australia, this year and drew a sharply lower prime-time audience than the 1998 games held in New York, a spokesman said.

A total of 15 jobs, out of the 25 positions associated with the games, will be cut a spokesman said.

The decision comes as AOL Time Warner nears a deal with the National Basketball Association, according to sources close tothe talks. In addition to discussing airing NBA games for six years, the two parties are talking about a partnership on an all-sports channel, sources have told Reuters.

Turner, who this week renewed his contract as vice chairman of AOL Time Warner after a public dispute, had said in August he would consider financing the games themselves.

Turner, who founded Cable News Network in 1980, lost operational control of the games after he sold Turner Broadcasting Systems to Time Warner in 1996 in a deal he has since voiced regrets about.

After the completion of the AOL Time Warner merger early this year, Turner was pushed to the sidelines -- most significantly losing control of Turner Broadcasting when Kellner took the helm.

Turner, who has been called the "mouth of the South," has voiced disappointment over the way he has been treated recently by AOL Time Warner, as well as hard feelings with AOL Time Warner Chief Executive Gerald Levin.

Richard Parsons, AOL Time Warner Inc.'s chief executive-designate who will replace Levin when he retires in May, had made efforts to keep Turner in the AOL Time Warner family by asking him to renew his contract.

The efforts by Parsons, known as a consensus builder, have paid off. Turner agreed to renew his contract late Thursday, an AOL Time Warner spokesman said.