At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Silvio Berlusconi - entrepreneur and politician

Businessman now barred from office but still leading his party


Silvio Berlusconi is Italy's longest serving post-war Prime Minister
Silvio Berlusconi is Italy's longest serving
post-war Prime Minister
Silvio Berlusconi, who has served as Prime Minister of Italy in four Governments, was born on this day in 1936 in Milan.

Head of a large media empire and owner of the football club AC Milan, Berlusconi was Prime Minister for a total of nine years, making him the longest-serving post-war Prime Minister and the third longest-serving since Italian unification.

Berlusconi was the eldest of three children born to a bank employee and his wife and, after completing his secondary school education, he studied Law at the Università Statale in Milan, graduating with honours in 1961.

While at University he played the double bass in a group and occasionally performed as a cruise ship crooner. In later life he was to co-write both AC Milan’s and Forza Italia’s anthems and, in collaboration with Mariano Apicella, a Neapolitan singer and musician, he wrote the lyrics for two albums of Neapolitan-style songs, which Apicella put to music.

In the late 1960s, Berlusconi’s company, Edilnord, built 4,000 residential apartments in a new 'town' he called Milano Due and he was able to use the profits to fund his future businesses.

In 1973 he set up Italy's first private television network, TeleMilano and went on to buy two further television channels. He founded the media group Fininvest, which expanded into a country-wide network of local television stations.

In 1980 he founded Italy’s first private national television network, Canale 5. He followed this with Italia 1 and Rete 4, all of which come under the umbrella of another Berlusconi company, Mediaset, of which Fininvest is the largest shareholder.

Berlusconi in his days as a singer on a  cruise ship
Berlusconi in his days as a singer on a
cruise ship 
Berlusconi was helped by his connection with Bettino Craxi, secretary-general of the Italian Socialist Party, who was Prime Minister at the time. In October 1984 Craxi’s Government passed an emergency decree legalising the nationwide transmissions made by Berlusconi’s television stations. In 1990, Craxi was to be one of Berlusconi’s best men at his second wedding.

Berlusconi was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for the first time in 1994. He became Prime Minister the same year, after his party, Forza Italia, gained a majority just three months after it was launched.

He was defeated in the elections of 1996 but won again in 2001, holding on to power till 2006, when he was defeated by a narrow margin. He became Prime Minister again in 2008 and led the Government until he had to resign in 2011. After the 2013 general election he became a member of the Senate.

While in power Berlusconi was criticised for his dominance of the Italian media and was also undermined by allegations of sex scandals.

He became embroiled in a number of court proceedings for alleged abuse of office and corruption and in 2013 was sentenced to a one-year prison sentence, but later acquitted of the offence of which he was accused.

Berlusconi has also been convicted of tax fraud but, because he was more than 70 years of age, was exempted from imprisonment and ordered to do unpaid community work.

The Senate has been forced to expel him and bar him from holding public office for six years.

Celebrating his 80th birthday today, Berlusconi has pledged to remain leader of Forza Italia throughout the remaining period of his public office ban.

Travel tip:

Silvio Berlusconi’s football club, AC Milan, play at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in the San Siro district of Milan. The club’s administrative headquarters are about three kilometres from the ground in Via Aldo Rossi in the Portello district, accessible from the centre of Milan via Linea 1 on the metro, getting off at the QT8 station. At the same location is the Mondo Milan museum, which charts the 117-year history of the club, founded in 1899 by two Englishmen, Alfred Edwards and Herbert Kilpin.

Silvio Berlusconi's home, the Villa San Martino, is in the  town of Arcore, north-east of Milan
Silvio Berlusconi's home, the Villa San Martino, is in the
town of Arcore, north-east of Milan
Travel tip:

Silvio Berlusconi’s personal residence, the Villa San Martino, is about 20 kilometres to the north east of Milan, in the town of Arcore in the province of Monza and Brianza. Berlusconi’s home, along with other important villas in the area, was built in the 16th century by a wealthy noble Lombardian family.

More reading:



Berlusconi and Gianni Rivera - poles apart politically, linked by AC Milan

Giuseppe Meazza - Italian football's first superstar

Matteo Renzi - Italy's youngest Prime Minister

Books:




The Italians, by John Hooper




(Photo of Villa San Martino by MarkusMark CC BY-SA 3.0)

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