Silvio Berlusconi Prime Minister of Italy In office
8 May 2008 – 16 November 2011
President Giorgio Napolitano Preceded by Romano Prodi Succeeded by Mario Monti In office
11 June 2001 – 17 May 2006
President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi
Deputy Giulio Tremonti
Preceded by Giuliano Amato Succeeded by Romano Prodi In office
10 May 1994 – 17 January 1995
President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro Deputy Giuseppe Tatarella
Preceded by Carlo Azeglio Ciampi Succeeded by Lamberto Dini Member of the Chamber of Deputies Incumbent Assumed office
21 April 1994
Constituency XV – Lazio I (1994–1996)
III – Lombardy I (1996–2006)
XIX – Campania I (2006–2008)
XVIII – Molise I (2008–present)
Personal details Born 29 September 1936
Political party The People of Freedom (2009–present) Other political
Forza Italia (1994–2008) Spouse(s) Carla Dall'Oglio
(m. 1965–1985, divorced)
(m. 1990–2010, divorced)
Alma mater University of Milan Profession Entrepreneur Religion Roman Catholicism Signature
Silvio Berlusconi (Italian pronunciation: [ˈsilvjo berluˈskoːni] ( listen); born 29 September 1936), also known as Il Cavaliere (literally, The Knight) – from knighthood to the Order of Merit for Labour which he received in 1977 – is an Italian politician and businessman who served three terms as Prime Minister of Italy, from 1994 to 1995, 2001 to 2006, and 2008 to 2011. Berlusconi is also the controlling shareholder of Mediaset and owner of A.C. Milan.
Berlusconi is the longest-serving post-war Prime Minister of Italy, and third longest-serving since Italy's unification, after Benito Mussolini and Giovanni Giolitti, holding three separate terms. Technically, he has been sworn in four times because after a cabinet reshuffle, as happened with Berlusconi in 2005, the new ministry is sworn in and subjected to a vote of confidence. He is the leader of the People of Freedom political movement, a centre-right party he founded in 2009. From November 2009 to November 2011, he was the longest-serving leader of a G8 country. As of 2011, Forbes magazine has ranked him as the 118th richest man in the world with a net worth of US$6.2 billion.
Berlusconi's political rise was rapid and surrounded by some controversy. He was elected as a Member of the Chamber of Deputies for the first time and appointed as Prime Minister following the March 1994 parliamentary elections, when Forza Italia gained a relative majority a mere three months after having been officially launched. However, his cabinet collapsed after nine months, due to internal disagreements in his coalition. In the April 1996 snap parliamentary elections, Berlusconi was defeated by the centre-left candidate Romano Prodi. In the May 2001 parliamentary elections, he was again the centre-right candidate for Prime Minister and won against the centre-left candidate Francesco Rutelli. Berlusconi then formed his second and third cabinets, until 2006.
Berlusconi was leader of the centre-right coalition in the April 2006 parliamentary elections, which he lost by a very narrow margin, his opponent again being Romano Prodi. He was re-elected in the parliamentary elections of April 2008 following the collapse of Prodi's government and sworn in for a third time as Prime Minister on 8 May 2008.
Berlusconi was criticised for his dominance over the Italian media whilst he held political office. His broadcasting company Mediaset is the largest in the country and Berlusconi never fulfilled his election promises to sell off his assets in the company to avoid a conflict of interest. His leadership was also undermined by sex scandals. After losing his majority in parliament amid growing fiscal problems related to the European debt crisis, Berlusconi officially resigned as Prime Minister on 16 November 2011.
- 1 Family background and personal life
- 2 Business career
- 3 Political career
- 4 Legal problems
- 5 Personal fortune
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 Documentaries
- 9 Feature films
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Family background and personal life
Berlusconi was born in Milan in 1936. He was raised there in a middle-class family. His father, Luigi Berlusconi (1908–1989) was a bank employee and his mother, Rosa Bossi (1911–2008), a housewife. Silvio was the first of three children; he had a sister, Maria Francesca Antonietta Berlusconi (1943–2009) and has a brother, Paolo Berlusconi (born 1949), both entrepreneurs.
After completing his secondary school education at a Salesian college, he studied law at the Università Statale in Milan, graduating (with honor) in 1961 with a thesis on the legal aspects of advertising. Berlusconi was not required to serve the standard one-year stint in the Italian army which was compulsory at the time. During his university studies he was a upright bass player in a group formed with the now Mediaset Chairman and amateur pianist Fedele Confalonieri and occasionally performed as a cruise ship crooner. In later life he wrote AC Milan's anthem with the Italian music producer and pop singer Tony Renis and Forza Italia's anthem with the opera director Renato Serio. With the Neapolitan singer Mariano Apicella he wrote two Neapolitan song albums: Meglio 'na canzone in 2003 and L'ultimo amore in 2006. Berlusconi also owns the Serie A Club AC Milan.
In 1965, he married Carla Elvira Dall'Oglio, and they had two children: Maria Elvira, better known as Marina (born 1966), and Pier Silvio (b. 1969). By 1980, Berlusconi had established a relationship with the actress Veronica Lario (born Miriam Bartolini), with whom he subsequently had three children: Barbara (b. 1984), Eleonora (b. 1986) and Luigi (b. 1988). He was divorced from Dall'Oglio in 1985, and married Lario in 1990. By this time, Berlusconi was a well-known entrepreneur, and his wedding was a notable social event. One of his best men was former Prime Minister and leader of the Italian Socialist Party Bettino Craxi. In May 2009, Lario announced that she was to file for divorce.
Berlusconi's business career began in construction early in the 1960s. After a couple of successful projects, in the late 1960s he carried out the construction of Milano Due, a huge residential project of about 10,500 apartments, which he eventually built in Segrate, an eastern suburb of Milan.
Berlusconi first entered the media world in 1973 by setting up a small cable television company, 'Telemilano', to service units built on his Segrate properties. It began transmitting in September the following year. After buying two further channels, Berlusconi relocated the station to central Milan in 1977 and began broadcasting over the airwaves.
In 1978 Berlusconi founded his first media group, Fininvest, and joined the Propaganda Due masonic lodge. In the five years leading up to 1983 he earned some 113 billion Italian liras (€58.3 million). The funding sources are still unknown because of the complex system of holding companies that makes them impossible to trace, despite investigations conducted by various state attorneys.
Fininvest soon expanded into a country-wide network of local TV stations which had similar programming, forming, in effect, a single national network. This was seen as breaching the Italian public broadcaster RAI's statutory monopoly on creating a national network which was later abolished. In 1980, Berlusconi founded Italy's first private national network, Canale 5, followed shortly thereafter by Italia 1 which was bought from the Rusconi family in 1982, and Rete 4, which was bought from Mondadori in 1984.
Berlusconi was assisted in his successful effort to create the first and only Italian commercial TV empire by his connections to Bettino Craxi, secretary-general of the Italian Socialist Party and also prime minister of Italy at that time, whose government passed, on 20 October 1984, an emergency decree legalising the nationwide transmissions made by Berlusconi's television stations. This was because, on 16 October 1984, judges in Turin, Pescara and Rome, enforcing a law which previously restricted nationwide broadcasting to RAI, had ordered these private networks to cease transmitting.
After some political turmoil in 1985 the decree was approved definitively. But for some years, Berlusconi's three channels remained in a legal limbo, and were not therefore allowed, for instance, to broadcast news and political commentary. They were elevated to the status of full national TV channels in 1990 by the so-called Mammì law.
In 1995, Berlusconi sold a portion of his media holdings, first to the German media group Kirch Group (now bankrupted) and then by public offer. In 1999 Berlusconi expanded his media interests by forming a partnership with Kirch called the Epsilon MediaGroup.
On 9 July, a Milan court ordered Fininvest to pay 560 million euros in damages to Compagnie Industriali Riunite in a long-running legal dispute.
As he founded his Forza Italia party and entered politics, Berlusconi expressed his support for "freedom, the individual, family, enterprise, Italian tradition, Christian tradition and love for weaker people" and his intention to combat fiscal, judicial and bureaucratic oppression of Italians. The political family of the European People's Party was joined by Forza Italia in 1999 and by the People of Freedom in 2009. Some allies of Berlusconi, especially the Lega Nord, push for controls on immigration. Berlusconi himself has shown some reluctance to pursue such policies as strongly as his allies might like. A number of measures have been taken, with mixed results. The government, after introducing a controversial immigration law (the "Bossi-Fini" law, from the names of the Lega Nord and National Alliance leaders, as first authors of the text) is seeking the cooperation of European and other Mediterranean countries in reducing the large number of immigrants trying to reach Italian coasts on old and overloaded ferries and fishing boats, risking (and, often, losing) their lives.
On 8 November 2011, after losing his majority and public support, Berlusconi announced he would resign once parliament passed economic reforms. Many believed that the problems and doubts over Berlusconi's leadership and his coalition were one of the factors that contributed to market anxieties over an imminent Italian financial disaster, which could have a potentially catastrophic effect on the 17-nation eurozone and the world economy. On 12 November 2011, after a final meeting with his cabinet, Berlusconi met Italian president Giorgio Napolitano at the Palazzo del Quirinale to tend his resignation. Following Berlusconi's resignation, Mario Monti formed a new government that would remain in office until the next scheduled elections in 2013. On 16 November, Monti announced that he had formed a Cabinet and was officially sworn in as Prime Minister of Italy, also appointing himself as Minister of Economy and Finance.
Silvio Berlusconi has an extensive record of criminal allegations, including mafia collusion, false accounting, tax fraud, corruption and bribery of police officers and judges. Berlusconi has been tried in Italian courts in several cases. In three of these cases accusations were dropped by the judiciary because of laws passed by Berlusconi's parliamentary majority shortening the time limit for prosecution of various offences and making false accounting illegal only if there is a specific damaged party reporting the fact to the authorities. In all of them, but one, either he was acquitted by a court of first instance or on appeal, or charges were dropped because the statute of limitations had expired. Therefore he has not been sentenced up to now, despite having been found guilty of providing false testimony in 1990. Berlusconi claimed that "this is a manifest judicial persecution, against which I am proud to resist, and the fact that my resistance and sacrifice will give the Italians a more fair and efficient judicial system makes me even more proud", and added that "789 prosecutors and magistrates took an interest in the politician Berlusconi from 1994 to 2006 with the aim of subverting the votes of the Italian people" citing statistics that he said have constituted a "calvary including 577 visits by police, 2,500 court hearings and 174 million euros in lawyers' bills paid by me". Berlusconi has always been able to afford top lawyers, for example Nicolas Sarkozy was one of his French top advocates. Some of his former prosecutors later joined the parliamentary opposition. Some of his attorneys are also members of parliament.
In 1981, a scandal arose after the police discovery of Licio Gelli's secret quasi-Masonic lodge Propaganda 2 (P2), which aimed to change the Italian political system to a more authoritarian regime. The list of people involved in P2 included members of the secret services and some prominent characters from political arena, business, military and media. Silvio Berlusconi, who was then just starting to gain popularity as the founder and owner of "Canale 5" TV channel, was listed as a member of P2. The P2 lodge was dissolved by the Italian Parliament in December 1981 and a law was passed declaring similar organisations illegal, but no specific crimes were alleged against individual members of the P2 lodge. While the Italian Constitution had forbidden secret associations since 1948, no penal law provision had ever been passed by Parliament to enact that, and in the Italian legal system an action cannot be a crime if no law declaring that action a crime was in force when the action was committed. Thus, members of the P2 were members of anti-Constitutional and yet not illegal per se association.
Berlusconi later (in 1989) sued three journalists for libel for writing articles hinting at his involvement in financial crimes. In court, he declared that he had joined the P2 lodge "only for a very short time before the scandal broke" and "he had not even paid the entry fee". Such statements conflicted with the findings of the parliamentary inquiry commission appointed to investigate the lodge's activity, with material evidence, and even with previous testimony of Berlusconi, all of which proved that he had actually been a member of P2 since 1978 and had indeed paid 100,000 Italian liras (approximately equivalent to 300 euros today) as an entry fee. In 1990 the court of appeal of Venice found Berlusconi guilty of false testimony in front of the Court of Verona, however the court could not pass sentence as the offense had been pardoned by an amnesty passed in 1989.
Some political commentators claim that Berlusconi's electoral programme followed the P2 plan.
Jowell controversy/David Mills bribery case
David Mills, lawyer husband of the former British cabinet minister Tessa Jowell, acted for Berlusconi in the early 1990s, and was later accused by Italian prosecutors of money laundering and of accepting a gift from Berlusconi in return for witness evidence favourable to Berlusconi given in court. Mills claimed that the money in question came not from Berlusconi but from another client. Tessa Jowell then announced her separation from Mills, which some of the UK media suggested was an attempt to distance herself from a potential scandal. She also denied having discussed the money with her husband; Private Eye magazine published a satirical front cover of Jowell with a speech bubble stating: "I have never met my husband". In December 2010, information obtained by the Wikileaks website revealed Mr Berlusconi had become very fond of Ms Jowell, referring to her in private company as 'piccolo puntaspilli' (the little pincushion).
On 17 February 2009, Mills was found guilty of accepting a bribe of about 400,000 pounds sterling, allegedly from Silvio Berlusconi, and was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison. On 25 February 2010, the Court of Cassation gave a verdict of not guilty because the statute of limitations expired. The supreme court judges ruled that he received the money in 1999, and not 2000 as prosecutors had previously argued. He was ordered to pay €250,000 compensation to the office of the Italian prime minister for "damaging its reputation".
According to Forbes, Berlusconi is Italy's third richest man, estimated to own assets worth $9 billion in 2010, in the fields of television, newspapers, publishing, cinema, finance, banking, insurance, and sport. Berlusconi's main company, Mediaset, comprises three national television channels, which together cover approximately a half of the national television sector; and Publitalia, the leading Italian advertising and publicity agency. Berlusconi also owns a controlling stake in Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, the largest Italian publishing house, whose publications include Panorama, one of the country's most popular news magazines. His brother, Paolo Berlusconi, owns and operates il Giornale, a centre-right wing newspaper which provides a strong pro-Berlusconi slant on Italy and its politics. Il Foglio, one of the most influential Italian right-wing newspapers, is partially owned by his wife, Veronica Lario. After selling her stocks in 2010, Paolo Berlusconi acquired a commanding interest. Berlusconi is also the founder and major shareholder of Fininvest, which is among the largest private companies in Italy and currently operates in media and finance. With Ennio Doris he founded Mediolanum, one of the country's biggest banking and insurance groups. He has interests in cinema and home video distribution (Medusa Film and Penta Film). He is also the owner of the football club A.C. Milan which along with Boca Juniors has won the most FIFA recognized international club titles in the world.
- Controversies surrounding Silvio Berlusconi
- Forbes list of billionaires (2011)
- List of current heads of state and government
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- "Citizen Berlusconi – The Prime Minister and the Press", 2003
- Viva Zapatero!, directed by Sabina Guzzanti, 2005
- "Quando c'era Silvio", documentary film directed by Beppe Cremagnani e Enrico Deaglio, 2005.
- Draquila - L'Italia che trema (directed by Sabina Guzzanti, Cannes Film Festival, 2010)
- Videocracy (directed by Erik Gandini, 2009) "Videocracy / ATMO independent film- and TV productions". http://www.atmo.se/film-and-tv/videocracy/. Retrieved 12 November 2009.
- "Bye Bye Berlusconi!/Buonanotte Topolino"
- Il Caimano (directed by Nanni Moretti, 2006)
- Shooting Silvio (directed by Berardo Carboni)
- Citizen Berlusconi (directed by Andrea Cairola and Susan Gray)
- (German) Geschäfte mit dem Vatikan. Die Affäre Sindona. München 1987. ISBN 3-426-03970-2
- Amedeo Benedetti, Il linguaggio e la retorica della nuova politica italiana: Silvio Berlusconi e Forza Italia, Erga, Genova, 2004, ISBN 88-8163-363-9
- L'odore dei soldi. Origini e misteri delle fortune di Silvio Berlusconi (Elio Veltri and Marco Travaglio, 2001, Editori Riuniti, ISBN 88-359-5007-4).
- (Italian) Journalist Marco Travaglio interviewed by Daniele Luttazzi in his show Satyricon
- (Italian) Berlusconi bankruptcy risks and legal investigation before entering politics: Mani pulite. La vera storia. Da Mario Chiesa a Silvio Berlusconi (Gianni Barbacetto, Peter Gomez and Marco Travaglio, 2002, Editori Riuniti, ISBN 88-359-5241-7)
- (Italian) L'amico degli amici. (Marco Travaglio and Peter Gomez, 2005, RCS MediaGroup, ISBN 88-17-00707-2)
- (Catalan) Gustau Navarro i Barba Bagasses, lladres i ministres al país de Berlusconi Edicions dels A.L.I.LL, Mataró, 2009. ISBN 978-84-613-6192-2
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- "Italian judges fight reforms", BBC News, 20 June 2002, Retrieved 1 February 2005
- "Italian magistrates go on strike", BBC News, 25 May 2004, Retrieved 1 February 2005
- "Italian president blocks reforms", BBC News, 16 December 2004, Retrieved 1 February 2005
- Q&A: "Berlusconi's battle with the courts", BBC News, 24 January 2002, Retrieved 1 February 2005
- "New storm over Berlusconi remarks", BBC News, 11 September 2003, Retrieved 2 February 2005
- "Jewish communities split over Berlusconi", BBC News, 26 September 2003, Retrieved 2 February 2005
- New York Times journalist Nick Tosches interviews with Michele Sindona, while imprisoned in the United States: Power On Earth, 1986, Arbor House Pub Co, USA, ISBN 0-87795-796-7
- Alexander Stille, "Girls! Girls! Girls! The P.M.'s sex follies" The New Yorker 84/35, 3 November 2008 : 70–76
- Gert Sørensen, Berlusconi og den moderne fyrste – Om demokratiets tilstand i et land i Europa, Museum Tusculanums Forlag, 2008. ISBN 978-87-635-0690-8.
- Official website
- Profile: Silvio Berlusconi, BBC
- A chronology of Berlusconi's life from Ketupa.net
- Berlusconi cuts stake in television company, IFEX
- Forbes.com: Forbes World's Richest People
- BBC News Europe: Berlusconi in his own words
- Berlusconi to lobby EU on behalf of Russian travellers video on RussiaToday
- Silvio Berlusconi; A Complex Character
- (Italian) Progetto Politica: le 10 domande di Repubblica a Berlusconi
- (English) (Italian) Forza Italia, Berlusconi's political movement; click on International for an English version.
- (English) "EN" (Italian) A popular paper spread among the members of the European Parliament about Berlusconi's life chronology, mysteries and trials. By Marco Travaglio and Peter Gomez.
Party political offices New political party Leader of Forza Italia
as Leader of the People of Freedom
Leader of the People of Freedom
Incumbent Italian Chamber of Deputies Preceded by
Title jointly held
Member of the Chamber of Deputies
Legislatures: XII, XIII, XIV, XV, XVI
Incumbent Political offices Preceded by
Carlo Azeglio Ciampi
Prime Minister of Italy
Prime Minister of Italy
Prime Minister of Italy
Diplomatic posts Preceded by
Chairperson of the Group of 8
Chairperson of the Group of 8
Chairperson of the Group of 8
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