Silvio Berlusconi (86) dies

Henry

Silvio Berlusconi, the controversial former Italian prime minister and billionaire media mogul, has died at the age of 86.

Berlusconi was admitted to a hospital in Milan on Friday for tests related to his leukemia.

Berlusconi had been discharged from the San Raffaele hospital just three weeks before, where he had been receiving treatment for six weeks. Doctors diagnosed Berlusconi with a rare type of blood cancer during this time.

Berlusconi has struggled with his health for years: from heart surgery in 2016 to hospital treatment in 2020 for Covid-19.

Despite the setbacks with his health, he was re-elected to the Italian senate last year and remained the official head of his right-wing Forza Italia party, a junior – and sometimes troublesome – partner in Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s coalition government.

Berlusconi served three terms (and a total of nine years) as Prime Minister of Italy between 1994 and 2011. However, his influence extended far beyond politics due to his TV, newspaper and sports interests and sex scandals.

“Silvio Berlusconi made history in this country,” former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Monday.

“Many loved him, many hated him. But everyone must admit today that his impact on political, but also economic, sports and TV life was unprecedented.”

Berlusconi presented himself as a messiah and martyr during his terms and had a widespread following. However, his opponents accused him of passing laws to protect his own interests.

Berlusconi has also been accused of corruption.

As Italy’s economy struggled, the self-confessed pier fan prime minister hosted his infamous “bunga bunga” parties. This resulted in several hearings that were only recently completed.

Karima el-Mahroug, known as “Ruby the Heart Stealer”, claimed in 2010, when she was 17 years old, that Berlusconi paid her for sex. The former prime minister was later also accused of bribing witnesses to lie about the parties. He was eventually acquitted.

Berlusconi is survived by his 33-year-old girlfriend, Marta Fascina, two ex-wives and five children.

Details of his funeral are not yet known.

The former prime minister did build a Pharaoh-inspired marble mausoleum at his villa in Arcore near Milan to be an eternal resting place for family and friends when they die.