Who is the best in modern Italy ? who is the wealthiest, the most influential, and public ? the most patriotic and careless ? whom do the Italians adore and at the same time curse ? A lovelace and a caring husband, a living embodiment of all sins and a zealous fighter for virtues, one of the best owners of the football club, a true Italian – Silvio Berlusconi.
Berlusconi is the chairman of the Council of ministers of Italy, an entrepreneur, the bank and mass media owner, the insurance tycoon, an ex-owner of the football team Milan and the company Fininvest, he is also one of the richest people in the country.
The history of success, the biography of Silvio Berlusconi
His childhood and youth
He was born on September 29, 1936 in Milan, the biggest and prosperous city of Italy. His father, Luigi , was a bank worker, his mother, Rozella, was a housewife.
Despite a humble salary , the boy was given a nice school education. Even during his school years he showed some business talent – he earned his first money , selling tickets for a free puppet performance. Silvio also helped his classmates do their homework and solved the tests for them. They paid for his help with candies, but Silvio eagerly took money. In case his ward got an unsatisfactory mark, Berlusconi gave his fee back to him.
After school Silvio entered Milan university in 1955, the faculty of applied jurisprudence, where he wrote the course works for other students for money. Vigorous , self-confident, charismatic , having leadership quality, he easily made friends. But Fedele Confalonieri was the closest one, maybe, because both of them shared love for music. During holidays they used to work at dancing parties – Fedele played the piano, Silvio accompanied his friend, playing the contrabass and singing.
After a while Berlusconi created a vocal-instrumental ensemble. They used to perform on ferries, cruising in the Mediterranean sea, in the restaurants and weddings. The humble income didn’t embarrass Silvio , he got the phone numbers and names of many influential important people instead of money.
As for the university, he graduated from it with excellent marks. And for his thesis on the problems of the legal regulation of the advertising business he was awarded a prize of 2 million lire.
The beginning of serious business
Silvio started his business life in building industry and this occupation remained his main activity for 20 years. There was a real building boom in the early 60s in Italy and the young graduate of the Milan university decided to take part in it, rejecting his father’s offer to become a bank clerk. Berlusconi founded the company Edilnord, cherishing the idea of building the luxurious district for the wealthy on the northern outskirts of Milan.
This plan made his colleagues laugh in the beginning. But Silvio gained the large land plot on the north outskirts of Milan without hesitation to implement his fantastic idea of building up a microdistrict Milan-2 for 4000 inhabitants. Besides houses, various shops, restaurants, schools, hospitals, underground parking and other infrastructure (beginning with a maternity hospital and finishing with a cemetery) had to be built there.
In those years the complex building was spread only in the USSR , Khrushchev houses were being built rather quickly , whereas Berlusconi was going to build houses of luxury class – palazzo. It took him only two years to implement this idea. There were numerous rumours as to where he managed to get the necessary sum of money, though even his enemies couldn’t but admit Silvio’s organizing talent, his ability to persuade and fantastic workaholism. At that time suchlike cottage districts were not as widespread as they are nowadays. That’s why Berlusconi had a great opportunity to make a real breakthrough in a building industry. At least, within Milan.
The purchased plots had one advantage – extremely low price, because planes flew over them to land at the nearby airport. Sceptics used to say that no sane person would buy an expensive house with planes constantly making terrible noise over it. However, soon after the building began, planes started flying in another direction and the land price increased immediately.
By the time the building of Milan-2 was finished, Berlusconi was not only the owner of Edilnord, but also the owner of a small studio called Telemilano, which turned out to be nonsense since there was a monopoly on tv and broadcasting in Italy at that time. Though all accusations of the law violation Berlusconi rejected this way : “Telemilano was no more than a cable channel only for the Milan-2 microdistrict dwellers.”
So the beginning of Milan-2 was made and later Milan-3 appeared.
On march 21, 1975 the Fininvest holding corporation was founded, which became Silvio’s child in business realm. Two years later he was awarded the title “chevalier of labour” for his achievements in building. Since then this title of cavalieri has been inseparable from his own name.
The empire, Berlusconi created, seemed to be perfect. They even invented a term “berlusconism”, that is to say, Silvio Berlusconi life style. A typical berlusconist lived in Milan-2 or Milan-3, bought products, manufactured by Berlusconi’s corporation , these products were sold in chain stores, belonging to Silvio, he sat in front of a tv set, watching programmes on three national channels, belonging to Berlusconi, had some rest reading a novel, published by Berlusconi publishing house, learnt the news from Silvio’s newspapers and so forth. But all of these things were not achieved quickly, he had to overcome a long road of hard and persistent work to reach this success.
Teletycoon Silvio Berlusconi
At the end of 70s the cavalieri decided to expand and diversify his corporation. By the time the market conjuncture began to change and Silvio came to conclusion that Italy was ready to watch commercial Tv. Perhaps, he considered broadcasting not only as a realm of profitable investment, but also as means of influencing the whole country.
In 1980 the first national commercial tv network “Canale-5” was founded. Later two more channels appeared Italia-1 and Retequatro. The significant factors of success were – firstly, Publitalia ’80, which was engaged in information advertisement, secondly, the optimization of broadcasting network with the most popular tv programmes.
A new incentive for info business was caused by tv reviewer – “Sorrisi and Calzoni tv”. The circulation of the magazine exceeded 2 million copies. Besides , Berlusconi owned controlling stake Il jernale – the national daily newspaper.
Realizing the infinite opportunities of tv, Berlusconi tried to achieve hegemony in this realm. Of course having friends among politicians , and an old friend of Berlusconi’s – Craxi, in particular, helped Silvio do it. In 1984 Craxi was appointed a prime minister and one of his first decisions was a decree on the liberalization of the telecommunications market.
After the Mammi law entered into force, Silvio didn’t worry about possible antimonopoly measures taken against his media empire. Berlusconi was officially recognized as the main media tycoon of the country, who owned the three largest non-state tv channels. It was then when Silvio obtained the nickname “his broadcastajesty”.
The idea turned out to be very successful and for 1985 the tv share in Fininvest was 85 % and Berlusconi owned the whole cable broadcasting network . The success in Italian commercial tv let him step over the boundary. The French La Chan, the German Telepound, the Spanish Telesinko appeared. Fininvest became the most powerful media holding in Europe and it was the second private company in Italy.
Silvio Berlusconi – the president of the football club Milan
Adventurous Silvio went further in his activities and in 1986 he purchased Milan. Why did a successful entrepreneur need the team-outsider ? It was a sort of deal with Bettino Craxi.
The successful businessman took Milan in custody, its fans regularly voted for communists and Craxi enacted a number of laws, which ceased investigation process started by general prosecutor office against Berlusconi.
Silvio spent much money on football and in the early 90s Milan became the superclub, that won not only in Italy, but also in Europe. He was capable of attracting additional investment into the club (he invested his personal income as well), this fact made it possible for the red-black to buy three outstanding Dutch players of that time – forward Marco van Basten, halfbacks Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard.
These players defined the game style of the Italian club for several years in a row. In 1999 Shevchenko , the Ukrainian forward, entered Milan, Berlusconi purchased him for 25 million euros – a really big sum of money for those times. With Berlusconi Milan won a great number of trophies, having become one of the most powerful football clubs in Europe. Cavalieri always had paternal attitude towards the players. In 2005 he even became a godfather of Shevchenko’s son.
Football brought tremendous profit, fans shouted – “Silvio, you are great !”. But there was more important thing, all 8 million fans were ready to vote for any political party, Berlusconi supported. He used all of his trumps in 1994 after great changes that took place in the 90s when many influential friends and patrons of Silvio’s left politics.
The political longevity of Berlusconi
Of course such an ambitious person as Berlusconi couldn’t but appear in the political arena. In 1994 he organized the new political party Forza Italia. This party declared the following priorities, which had to become the leading ones in its policy : freedom, personality, family, entrepreneurship, the Italian traditions, Catholicism and compassion to the weak.
Forza Italia was supported immediately in mass media, belonging to Silvio. It won the most votes in the elections. Later the president entrusted Berlusconi to form the government, which was then approved of by the Parliament in May 1994.
The government, headed by Berlusconi, was announced to have achieved the significant results. During the election campaign Silvio persuaded the potential voters “I don’t need to become a prime minister to have power. I‘ve got houses all over the world, comfortable ships, wonderful wife and nice family. It is the act of pure selfsacrifice.”
However, the first step to politics was unsuccessful, in summer Berlusconi had to resign due to six summons from the prosecutor’s office, where he was accused of corruption.
Having made the necessary conclusions from his political failure, Silvio started reorganizing his party. He managed to restore the union with the leader of Northern league – Umberto Bossi. A new block of the right-centrists “Casa delle Libertà” (house of liberty) comprised also The national alliance and Christian democrates.
Pre-election promises of Silvio included taxes and bureaucracy reduction , increased pensions and workplaces, fight against illegal immigration. It was intended to carry out reforms in the education , health care , judicial systems. Students were supposed to get the opportunity to pay for education in private schools by means of state vouchers. Medical service was supposed to be partially free of charge. In his speech in front of his electorate, Berlusconi offered a deal : in case he failed to implement all of the listed obligations, Silvio promised to resign.
During the pre-election campaign , which relied upon the info power of the mediatycoon, Berlusconi claimed that he was the one able to solve the problems in Italy. He considered himself as the best political leader in Europe and the rest of the world : “taking into account the story of my life, my professional skills and achievements in business, there is no one else, who could be compared to me.” On may 15, 2001 “House of liberty” won the general election and Silvio became the leader of the government again.
The unsuccessful joining the euro zone in 2002 resulted in price increase, decline in the purchasing power of the population and exacerbation of the social contradictions. The internal political reforms of the Berlusconi government, in the fields of education, healthcare, the judiciary and employment in particular, were not successful, the society repeatedly met them with protests. In 2002, there was a general strike, followed by others in 2003. The Prime Minister was inclined to explain this by the political opponents’ activity.
Berlusconi’s foreign policy triggered the Italians’ displeasure. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, the country provided active support to the United States in Afghanistan, and later in Iraq. In 2003, Italy sent 3,000 people to Iraq, the Italian contingent in this country was the fourth largest (after the United States, Great Britain, South Korea).
Berlusconi insisted on Italy’s being a target for Islamic extremists and advocated for the necessity for international intervention to fight dictatorial regimes. Participation in Iraq cost the Italians the greatest military losses after the end of World War II. Discontent was growing further.
Italian-Russian relations played a significant role in Berlusconi’s foreign policy. In particular, Berlusconi regularly spoke in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin on issues of Chechnya and human rights in Russia, thereby provoking discontent of both – the Western international community and the Italian opposition.
In April 2005, the coalition “House of Freedom” suffered a crushing defeat in regional elections, and according to the constitution, Berlusconi was forced to resign. The reasons of the failure were citizens’ dissatisfaction with the economic situation in the country and Iraqi politics.
After the fall of the Romano Prodi government, in January 2008, Silvio Berlusconi took part in the pre-election race, leading the center-right coalition “The Freedom People.” And on May 8, he was again formally appointed the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Italy.
Silvio Berlusconi is a unique example of political longevity. In a country , where governments sometimes change even more often than once a year, he managed somehow to stay afloat for twenty years.
Legal costs of Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi regularly appeared in the center of high-profile scandals on various grounds: tax fraud, connection with mafia, intimate relationships with girls from escort agencies and much more. These incidents were often considered in the court.
According to his own estimation, for 20 years he attended to 2,500 court hearings in 106 trials, and legal costs for that time cost him € 200 million. He was charged with embezzlement 17 times, tax fraud, and false testimony and bribery. All these accusations Silvio Berlusconi always denied. In some cases, the court found him guilty, but subsequently these decisions were annulled after the expiry of the statute of limitations or as a result of appeals filed.
In 1994, the same year when he first became the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi was charged with bribing the tax police. Three years later he was found guilty and sentenced to 33 months in prison. However, in 2000, charges against him were dropped after the expiration of the statute of limitations.
In 1995, Berlusconi was accused of signing a contract with football player Gianluigi Lentini for FC Milan, paying money from a fund intended for political campaigns. The Prime Minister managed to avoid prosecution in this case, because in 2002 the parliament adopted amendments to the legislation, thanks to which the fraudulent reports, that Berlusconi carried out, was excluded from the number of criminally punishable crimes.
In 1995, the Prime Minister was also accused of violating the financial statements when buying a film company Medusa. In 1997, Silvio Berlusconi, who by that time was no longer the country’s prime minister, was sentenced to 16 months in prison, but appealed and was acquitted in 2000.
In addition, in the same 1995, Berlusconi was accused of illegal financing the Italian Socialist Party through his offshore company. In this case Berlusconi was also found guilty and would have been sentenced to 28 months in prison, if the statute of limitations had not expired
In 1998, he was accused of bribing judges in two independent trials because of the purchase of his company by the publishing house Mondadori and his rival’s attempt to buy out the state conglomerate SME. In the first case, Silvio Berlusconi once again avoided imprisonment due to the expiry of the statute of limitations, in the second he was acquitted.
In 2009, he was suspected after his tax lawyer, David Mills, was sentenced to prison for taking a bribe of $ 600,000 (presumably from the prime minister) during two lawsuits concerning the activities of the offshore companies Silvio Berlusconi in the 1990s. However, then the charges against Mills were annulled because of the expiration of the statute of limitations.
Suspicions against Silvio Berlusconi were not proven, as the Italian government approved of the law, granting the Prime Minister immunity from prosecution in criminal cases. However, in January of this year, the Italian Constitutional Court announced that this law contradicted the Constitution, therefore the trial of a possible bribe would be resumed in March 2011.
As part of this process, information is already being checked that with the help of David Mills Silvio Berlusconi founded many offshore companies and opened bank accounts in tax havens where the company Fininvest stores, according to unofficial data, about € 750 million.
Silvio Berlusconi has never been brought to trial on suspicion of being related to mafia, despite the fact that defectors from the mafia have repeatedly stated that the Prime Minister’s party, Forza Italia, and he personally assisted the Sicilian factions. These suspicions were intensified after one of the founders of the party, Marcello Dell’Utri, was sentenced to nine years in prison for conspiring with mafia.
Silvio Berlusconi regularly appeared in the center of sexual scandals, but until now the case did not reach the court. In February 2007, Silvio Berlusconi’s wife Veronica Lario, announced her intention to divorce him, saying: “I can not stay with a man who starts relationships with young girls.” Subsequently, 22-year-old supermodel Mara Carfanya, who became one of the reasons for Veronica Lario’s dissatisfaction, took up the post of minister for equality. The procedure for divorce has not yet been completed.
In the autumn of the same year, the Italian newspaper L’Espresso published the contents of Berlusconi’s audio tapes that got at their disposal with a girl from an escort agency named Patricia d’Addario. On Berlusconi’s record, D’Addario says that she waits for him in the “Putin’s bed” while he takes a shower. After that, all the world’s media vainly tried to figure out why one of Berlusconi’s beds had such a weird name. Answering journalists’ questions, Berlusconi claimed that he had never paid D’Addario for sex.
In 2009, the information appeared about the close relations between Silvio Berlusconi and the model of Leticia Noemi. The basis for the rumours was that Noemi repeatedly visited Berlusconi’s villa. The prime minister himself denies that he was in an intimate relationship with the model.
All attempts to sink Silvio Berlusconi have always ended in failure. Until now, no one can unravel this phenomenon.
Family and private life of Silvio Berlusconi
1965 was marked by the first marriage of Berlusconi with Carla-Elvira Dall’Olio, who gave birth to her husband’s daughter Maria Elvira and son Pierre-Silvio. By 1980, Berlusconi already had a close relationship with actress Veronica Lario. Young and very promising actress Veronika (real name Miriam Bartolini) was busy in the play “Magnificent Cuckold”. In one scene, the actress was supposed to play nude. They say that Silvio was so pleased with what he saw that right after the performance he burst into the dressing room and won her heart.
To legalize relationship with Veronica Silvio could only in five years after the birth of his daughter Barbara, when the divorce proceedings with Karla-Elvira ended. Later in the second marriage two more children were born: the girl Eleanor and the boy Luigi.
However, this marriage of Silvio Berlusconi’s was not better than the previous one. Since 1994, the couple almost did not live together. Veronica published her biography. In a small 200-page book, the former actress characterizes Berlusconi not from the best side. Veronica Berlusconi says that she rarely saw her husband. “At lunch, Silvio always talks on the phone, at dinner, as well. Even on Christmas Eve, sitting at a family table with a turkey, he picks up the phone.”
During public appearances together, the politician behaves like a real dictator, following every movement of his wife. He constantly makes remarks like “wave your hand” or “smile” – as if she does not know when to do it. That’s one of the reasons why Veronica was not very fond of being with him in society.
В отличие от довольно скромной по описанию семейной жизни, личные отношения Берлускони всегда были не в пример богаче. Если верить прессе, то за время обоих браков у любвеобильного предпринимателя были сотни внебрачных связей и не менее десятка детей на стороне.
This union, which existed for almost thirty years, was not destined to continue, in 2009 Veronica Lario filed for divorce.
Unlike the rather modest description of family life, Berlusconi’s personal relations have always been not an example of a richer one. If you believe the press, during the two marriages a loving entrepreneur had hundreds of extra-marital ties and at least a dozen children on the side.
Silvio never hid sympathy for the beauties with big breasts : they are always present at his parties and receptions, he gives them his patronage and displays on television screens and the political arena. I must say that such debuts are not always mediocre. In Italy, the notion of “great” became a household word.
This is the name of a printed copy of the news text from the announcers, and later they began to designate the girls themselves, whose entire role was initially reduced to serving these very “pieces of paper”. Velin spread on numerous TV shows (the benefit of the owner of large channels could afford to freely manage the staff), “power” on the screen was captured by not much talented, but very long-legged girls.
The Berlusconi cabinet of ministers is decorated by former dancer Mara Carfanya, who got the post of Minister for Equal Opportunities. Undoubtedly, at the beauty contest of the world ministers, she would easily have received the crown of the beauty queen. During her political career, Mara managed to become the author of a bill that recognizes prostitution as an administrative crime, and also “incited” sexual minorities, advocating for their restriction in favour of traditional marriages.
Staying delighted with the beauty of his numerous girlfriends, Silvio did not always have the need to be interested in their age. Thus, a story with the Moroccan Karima El Marug began, who appeared to be under age. The hearing began on April 6, and it is not known yet whether the “knight” will manage to stay on horseback again.
Scandals in Silvio Berlusconi’s life
The Italian Premier is known for his peculiar manner of acting in public. In addition to serious corruption, tax, antimonopoly, sexual and other scandals, Silvio Berlusconi had a lot of funny stories, which are unacceptable in diplomatic etiquette.
One of the resonant political scandals Silvio Berlusconi provoked in July 2003. The day after Italy became the head of the EU Council of Ministers, the member of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, criticized the domestic policy of the government of Silvio Berlusconi. The response of the Italian prime minister plunged the audience into shock. Glancing at the German deputy, Berlusconi said: “Mr. Schultz, I’m familiar with one film producer in Italy, who is filming a movie about Nazi concentration camps. I will offer him to you as a warden in the camp. You perfectly fit this image. ”
On November 18, 2008, at the summit in Trieste, he played a trick on German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Berlusconi jumped out from behind the lamppost behind Merkel’s back when she was going from the car to the entrance of a building and shouted “here I am!”. Merkel was surprised, but when she saw Berlusconi, she smiled and exclaimed “Silvio!”
After Barack Obama was elected to the post of US President, Berlusconi , at a joint press conference with Dmitry Medvedev, spoke about the new president: “You can deal with Obama: he is young, handsome and suntanned.” Disputes were caused by the word “tanned” , which is widely used in the States for the humiliating denotation of the black population. Berlusconi responded briefly, calling the journalists inflating this – morons and describing his phrase as a successful attempt at a witty compliment.
In general, the reluctance of the Prime Minister of Italy to consider thoroughly every word spoken , gives rich food for discussion by journalists. That’s why Berlusconi often has to justify himself for his brilliant, but not always correct statements.
The craving for playful behavior sometimes is stronger than the need to observe the official etiquette. So, at a meeting with the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain Josep Piquet, Berlusconi could not resist and showed behind the Spaniard a “goat”. This harmless gesture, widespread among Italian children, was rated as absolutely unacceptable for the official photo shoot.
In 2009, Berlusconi was not ashamed during the entire protocol part of the 60th NATO summit to speak on his mobile phone, and was so carried away, that he spoke even during a minute of silence in memory of the soldiers, who died in the operations of the Alliance.
In October 2010, at the celebration of his 74th birthday, Berlusconi told a silly anecdote about the Jews associated with the World War 2, which caused the Vatican’s condemnation. Berlusconi was justified by the fact that the anecdote was told in an informal atmosphere. The mass media noted that this is not the first time when he attracts attention by telling anti-Semitic or pro-Nazi jokes.
There are many scandals of Berlusconi with journalists. Among the relatively recent – two incidents in Italy. In March 2010, at one of the press conferences, the Prime Minister did everything possible to avoid the questions of one of the journalists, and, losing patience, finally called him a mucker, provocateur, vulgar and ridiculous man, after that the journalist was forced out of the hall.
Several times Berlusconi tried to make scandals, dialling the talk show live, but the editors managed to hide the call from the studio. In January 2011, Berlusconi managed to get through and go live on the talk show of Gad Lerner. Disagreeing with the discussion of his girlfriend Nicole Minetti, the prime minister insulted all those present in the studio.
On December 13, 2009, Silvio Berlusconi was attacked in the central square of Milan, where he arrived at the meeting of the ruling party. The 73-year-old prime minister was struck in the face by a souvenir copy of the Milan Gothic cathedral, made of marble and metal. Millions of viewers saw a TV report about this event, which captured the bleeding face of Berlusconi.
After this event, Berlusconi experienced a sudden rise in popularity ratings on a wave of public sympathy: he scored 66%, which is 20% more than last week. This was the reason for suspicions that the Italian scandalous Prime Minister could falsify the attack.
In Italian blogs, there were different opinions about the attack. Internet users carefully studied the photos and video attacks, and came to the conclusion: aggression was played out, like in the theater, or at least the insane act of Massimo Tartaglia was heavily inflated.
Representatives of Berlusconi call statements about the unnaturalness of the attack absurd and stupid.
Whatever happens, Silvio Berlusconi never loses confidence in the public. If he confuses the names of the countries or cities, Berlusconi blames the interpreter for it without batting an eyelid.
If he is criticized by the representatives of the left camp, he immediately recalls a fresh anecdote to himself: “Prodi floats in a boat on the lake, suddenly a gust of wind tears off his hat. Berlusconi stands up and walks on the water surface , raises a hat from the wave and gives it to Prodi. The next morning, the left-wing newspapers go out with the title: “Berlusconi can not swim!”
It doesn’t matter how everyone thinks of Berlusconi, no one can deny his significance in the political and business arenas. Italians in the majority like the prime minister for openness, activity, spontaneity and absence of ostentatious sinlessness. What the others carefully hide, Berlusconi turns if not into dignity, then into the ordinary human quality. Yes, he is rich. Yes, he can go beyond the law, pursuing commercial interests. Yes, he likes beautiful young girls, and he knows how to impress them.
But which Italian does not seek welfare, glory and pleasures? And the ability to recognize his own weaknesses positively characterizes a person.
So, whom or what does Berlusconi owe his success ? Of course, in the first place, this is his exceptional business qualities – organizational talent and fantastic performance. He is on his feet for 18 hours a day, neither drinks alcohol, nor smokes. Most of all, a businessman values time.
Once, in an interview for the popular newspaper “Repubblica”, the cavalieri boasted that he is a self-made man : “I am the first generation. As an industrialist, I rose in the 60’s by myself, without acquaintances, support, help. “