Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's Former Prime Minister and Media Mogul, Passes Away at 86

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Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister who left an indelible mark on the country's political and cultural landscape, passed away at the age of 86.

Berlusconi, a billionaire media mogul, had been admitted to a Milan hospital for planned tests related to his leukemia. This hospitalization followed a six-week stay at Milan's San Raffaele hospital, where doctors disclosed his diagnosis of a rare form of blood cancer.

Over the years, Berlusconi battled various health issues, including heart surgery in 2016 and hospitalization for COVID-19 in 2020. Despite being re-elected to the Senate last year, he was rarely seen in public, but retained his role as the official head of the right-wing Forza Italia party, which formed part of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's coalition government.

Berlusconi, who served as Italy's prime minister on three occasions from 1994 to 2011, spanning a total of nine years, won over voters with his promise of economic prosperity. However, he was eventually forced out of office due to the country's debt crisis. Beyond his political influence, Berlusconi's extensive media holdings, including TV channels, newspapers, and sports interests, allowed him to have a significant impact on Italy's economic, sporting, and television spheres.

The charismatic and often controversial Berlusconi, known for his playboy lifestyle, constantly found himself in the headlines. His larger-than-life personality and understanding of public sentiment enabled him to project an image of a strong, self-made man, much like former U.S. President Donald Trump would later do. Berlusconi started his career in real estate and later ventured into television, introducing shows that resonated with a wide audience, particularly housewives, who eventually became a significant part of his voter base.

Berlusconi's tenure was marked by both adoration and criticism. Supporters admired his straightforwardness, while detractors accused him of corruption, cronyism, and implementing laws to safeguard his personal interests. His off-color jokes and insults on the international stage often caused embarrassment for many Italians. Throughout his life, Berlusconi faced numerous legal battles, with one conviction for corporate tax fraud. Notably, his infamous "bunga bunga" sex parties, which gained widespread attention, resulted in a series of trials that concluded only in recent months. One of the most well-known cases involved "Ruby the Heart Stealer," a 17-year-old woman who claimed to have received payment for sexual encounters with Berlusconi. Although he faced accusations of bribing witnesses, Berlusconi was eventually acquitted.

Berlusconi is survived by his 33-year-old girlfriend, Marta Fascina, two ex-wives, and five children. Some of his children are involved in managing his vast empire, which was recently estimated to be worth approximately seven billion dollars. While funeral arrangements are yet to be disclosed, Berlusconi had constructed a Pharaoh-inspired marble mausoleum at his villa in Arcore, near Milan, intended to serve as the final resting place for his family and close friends.

Silvio Berlusconi's legacy is that of a polarizing figure who wielded immense influence in Italy, leaving an enduring impact on politics, media, and society. His passing marks the end of an era, one defined by ambition, controversy, and a relentless pursuit of power.

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