Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister who reshaped Italy’s political and cultural landscape while fending off multiple legal and sex scandals, has died aged 86, his spokesman confirmed to AFP Monday.
The billionaire media mogul was admitted to a Milan hospital on Friday for what aides said were pre-planned tests related to his leukemia.
His admission came just three weeks after he was discharged following a six-week stay at Milan’s San Raffaele hospital, during which time doctors revealed he had a rare type of blood cancer.
Berlusconi had suffered ill health for years, from heart surgery in 2016 to a 2020 hospitalisation for coronavirus. Despite being re-elected to the Senate last year, he was rarely seen in public.
But he remained the official head of his right-wing Forza Italia party, a junior — and occasionally troublesome — partner in Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s coalition government.
Berlusconi led Italy three times between 1994 and 2011, for a total of nine years, wooing voters with a promise of economic success only to be forced out as a debt crisis gripped his country.
But his influence extended well beyond politics, thanks to his extensive TV, newspaper and sporting interests, while his playboy antics kept him in the headlines even in his final years.
He is survived by his 33-year-old girlfriend, Marta Fascina, two ex-wives and five children, some of whom help run his empire, recently estimated to be worth some seven billion dollars.
While it is too soon for details of his funeral, Berlusconi built a Pharaoh-inspired marble mausoleum at his villa in Arcore, near Milan, to house his family and friends when they die