Silvio Berlusconi gestures before the 2016 AC Milan vs SS Lazio soccer match in Milan, Italy.
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Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire media mogul who served as Italy’s prime minister several times between 1994 and 2011, has died. He was 86.
Berlusconi died at the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, according to local media. CNBC was not immediately able to verify the reports.
The tycoon suffered from several serious illnesses, including COVID-19which resulted in repeated hospitalizations starting in September 2020. Last month, he was released from the hospital where he had been treated for six weeks for a lung infection associated with chronic leukemia.
Berlusconi’s extensive political career has included appointments as Prime Minister of Italy from 1994 to 1995, 2001 to 2006, and 2008 to 2011. As of 2019, he has served as a Member of the European Parliament, where he also served from 1999 to 2001. His Forza Italia party is currently the junior governing partner Prime Minister Giorgio Meloni’s right-wing coalition.
Berlusconi he entertained several business ventures in tandem with his political activities and acquired a fortune estimated at around 7 billion dollars in June. He was a major shareholder in Italy’s biggest commercial broadcaster Mediaset, whose shares rose more than 5% on Monday morning.
The former Italian leader promised – but failed – to sell his assets in the media company when he was prime minister. He also owned the Italian football club AC Milan from 1986 to 2017.
Berlusconi, twice married with five children, has faced numerous scandals and trials over tax schemes and sexual escapades. He was once convicted but later acquitted of having sex with 17-year-old nightclub dancer Karima El-Mahroug at one of his wild “bunga bunga” parties. He was sentenced to seven years in prison and banned from public office for life, only to be acquitted two years later by the Italian Supreme Court.
Italian politicians paid tribute to Berlusconi via social media on Monday.
Italian Meloni said Berlusconi’s “courage” and “determination” made him “one of the most influential men in Italian history”.
“These qualities have allowed him to bend the worlds of politics, communications and business,” she said on Twitter, according to a translation by NBC. “Goodbye Silvio.
Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini called Berlusconi a “great friend” and acknowledged the former leader’s “friendship”, “advice” and “generosity”.
Meanwhile, Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto said Berlusconi’s death leaves a “huge void” and marks the end of an era. “I loved him so much. Goodbye Silvio.”
Berlusconi is seen casting his vote during the Lombardy regional elections in Milan, Italy on February 12, 2023.
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“Silvio Berlusconi made his mark in the history of this country,” former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Twitter.
“Many loved him, many hated him: everyone today must admit that his impact on political, but also economic, sports and television life was unprecedented,” he added, according to the translation.
World leaders also shared their condolences. In a letter to Italian President Sergio Mattarello, Russian President Vladimir Putin called Berlusconi a “true friend” and an “excellent” politician.
“Berlusconi will be remembered in Russia as a consistent and principled supporter of strengthening friendly relations between our countries,” the Russian leader said, according to translated remarks. published on the Kremlin’s official website.
“During each of our meetings, I was literally charged with his incredible vitality, optimism and sense of humor. His death is an irreparable loss and a great sadness,” Putin said.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban shared a black-and-white picture of himself shaking hands with Berlusconi, with the message: “Gone is the great fighter.”
Berlusconi was not always loved by the people during his nine-year tenure as prime minister, sealing him as Italy’s third-longest prime minister after statesman Giovanni Giolitti and fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
Berlusconi was at a campaign rally in 2009 during his last stint as prime minister punched in the face by a mentally ill man holding a Milan Cathedral statuettel. The bloody attack broke Berlusconi’s nose, split his lip and knocked out two of his teeth.
Correction: Giovanni Giolitti was an Italian statesman. The previous version misidentified it.