"I’m really proud of it.” He holds out the wallet, a slender, black, rather unpretentious affair, as this reporter cranes for a closer look, neglecting to mention I’ve never seen a billionaire’s wallet before.

"He was exceptionally important in the media landscape.

We shall not look upon Ted Turner’s kind again." Even his onetime friend, former Time Warner chief Gerald Levin, who ousted him in a putsch that severed their relationship, acknowledges: “Some people have transcendent notions about changing the world.

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He drives a Prius and adds, "I haven’t been in a store to buy anything for five years" — even clothes.

He says all this with little of the flamboyance that was once his mark.

Without him, we wouldn’t have an all-cartoon channel or an all-movie channel — maybe not even cable television itself, with all its glorious target programming, its 24-hour sports, passionate punditry and unreal reality.

"He’s a genius," says former CNN president Tom Johnson.

“I don’t know if it’s because of what happened at Time Warner or if it’s just getting older,” says one.

"But he’s definitely changed." [pagebreak] The reformed drinker, who embarrassed himself after winning the 1977 America’s Cup with a drunken performance at a news conference, no longer touches a drop.

This onetime social gadfly, who hobnobbed with President Carter and Soviet chief Mikhail Gorbachev (whom he still cites as his hero), has a relatively quiet social life.