Silvio Berlusconi, the larger-than-life figure who left an enduring mark on Italian politics, passed away on Monday, June 12 at the age of 86, leaving behind a legacy that is as captivating as it is controversial.
Born on September 29, 1936, in Milan, Italy, Berlusconi exhibited an entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. His journey began with a successful foray into the construction and real estate business, before he founded Mediaset, a television and broadcasting company that quickly grew to become one of Italy’s largest media conglomerates, in 1978.
Following the success of his media venture, Berlusconi made a move into politics and won his first term as Prime Minister in 1994, leading a coalition government. He aimed to revitalise Italy’s stagnant economy and reduce the role of the state in business affairs. Berlusconi’s reforms, including tax cuts and labor market flexibility measures, aimed to attract foreign investments and stimulate economic growth.
However, Berlusconi’s political career was not without controversy. Throughout his time as Prime Minister, he faced numerous legal battles and allegations of corruption and tax fraud. These scandals often overshadowed his policy initiatives, tarnishing his reputation both domestically and internationally.
While his political career and media ventures often made headlines it was his personal life that garnered the most attention. Berlusconi’s flamboyant lifestyle and glamorous parties made him a constant subject of fascination for many.
Although Berlusconi was a polarising figure, that didn’t stop a number of world leaders and influential identities from reflecting on his legacy.
Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was among the first to “farewell Silvio”.
“Silvio Berlusconi was above all a fighter, he was a man who was never afraid to defend his beliefs and it was exactly that courage, that determination that made him one of the most influential men in the history of Italy,” Meloni said.
“With him we have fought, won and lost many battles and for him too we will bring home the goals we had set together. Farewell Silvio.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reflected on Berlusconi’s “huge impact on Italian politics”.
“Silvio Berlusconi made a huge impact on Italian politics over several decades and our thoughts are with the Italian people and his family,” Sunak said.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair described Berlusconi as “larger than life” despite his many controversies.
“Silvio Berlusconi was a larger than life figure with whom I worked closely for several years as Prime Minister,” Blair said.
“I know he was controversial for many but for me he was a leader whom I found capable, shrewd and, most important, true to his word.”
Berlusconi is survived by Marta and his children, Marina, Pier Silvio, Barbara, Eleonora and Luigi.