The tycoon was a major businessman who revolutionised Italian politics

Berlusconi's death seals the end of an era in Italian history

AFP/ANDREAS SOLARO - Fotografía de archivo tomada el 06 de abril de 2006, el primer ministro italiano, Silvio Berlusconi
AFP/ANDREAS SOLARO - File photo taken on 06 April 2006, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi died on Monday at the age of 86, a death that seals the end of an era in Italian history, as he changed the way politics was conducted, but also left his mark on the world of business, communication and sport, during the more than five decades in which he played a leading role in the life of the country. 

Berlusconi died this morning surrounded by his five children, his brother Paolo and his partner Marta Fascina, 53 years his junior, in Milan's San Raffaele hospital, where he had been hospitalised for 44 days after it was revealed that he had been suffering from leukaemia for some time. 

The tycoon, who as a successful businessman revolutionised politics in the 1990s when as head of the conservative Forza Italia (FI) he became the forerunner of populism, will be laid to rest at a state funeral on Wednesday in the cathedral of Milan, his home city and where he forged all his achievements. 

The public funeral chapel is expected tomorrow, Tuesday, although in the end it will not be at the Milan headquarters of his television station, Mediaset, as had been planned, due to "public order issues", as thousands of people are expected to come to pay their last respects to one of Italy's most beloved politicians. 

For the moment Berlusconi's mortal remains lie in state at his famous Arcore mansion, where a private wake will be held this afternoon, pending the final announcement of where his public funeral will take place tomorrow. 

A fighter and a revolutionary 

Although his life was peppered with controversy, from his famous parties with young girls in Arcore to his possible links with the mafia, today both rivals and allies wanted to remember his "historic" side. 

From the Gemelli hospital in Rome, where he underwent surgery for an abdominal hernia on Wednesday, Pope Francis referred to Berlusconi and his "energetic temperament" as "a protagonist" of Italian political life, while the head of state, Sergio Mattarella, lamented with "deep sadness" the death of "a great political leader who left his mark on the history" of Italy, changing "paradigms, customs and language". 

"He was above all a fighter, a man who was never afraid to stand up for his convictions, with courage and determination," said Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who considered him "one of the most influential men in Italian history". 

Both Meloni, leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy, and his vice-president Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right League and both Berlusconi's partners in the current centre-right coalition government, cancelled their agenda, while the Chamber of Deputies has suspended its sessions and the Senate, to which Berlusconi returned last October after nine years of disqualification, has placed the flag at half-mast. 

A huge void for his party and his empire 

In addition to the political and social upheaval caused by Berlusconi's death, not least because it was expected, his death has shaken his economic empire, which will have to be divided among his five children, but also his party, Forza Italia, which has lost its top leader and has no clear heir. 

Berlusconi kept the reins of the party, which he founded in 1993, while all the possible heirs have been disappearing, unable to match the businessman's charisma. His "dauphin" is the current party coordinator and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, although a fight for his place is not ruled out. 

But, above all, the death of one of the richest men in the country will be an earthquake for Finninvest, with a turnover of 5,000 million euros and more than 20,000 employees and divided into 7 holdings, 4 of them in the hands of "Il Cavaliere", which represents 60% of the empire and which will now have to be divided among his five children. 

Currently the two children from his first marriage, Marina and Piersilvio, each hold 8 % and those from his second marriage, Barbara, Luigi and Eleonora, hold 22 %, while Berlusconi's wealth is valued, according to Forbes, at 7 billion euros. 

The tycoon and his young and inseparable partner, Marta Fascina, tied the knot on 17 March 2022 with a symbolic wedding in front of their closest friends at Villa Gernetto, a huge 18th century mansion in the town of Lesmo (north), because, according to some media reports, they were not allowed to marry to avoid problems with the inheritance. 

AFP/SOPHIE RAMIS - Perfil del multimillonario y ex primer ministro italiano Silvio Berlusconi
AFP/SOPHIE RAMIS - Profile of billionaire and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

Football was also his passion 

Berlusconi was also a football man. The mark he left on the beautiful game, which he signed with a historic Milan that he ruled for 31 years (1986-2017), is unparalleled by many other works of football architecture. That champion Milan, which won 28 titles, including eight Scudetti and five Champions Leagues, will always be Berlusconi's Milan. 

"It is with immense sorrow that I mourn my friend, the master of everything, the person who changed my life for more than 43 years," said his right-hand man Adriano Galliani. 

"He was a brilliant friend to whom I owe everything. Silvio Berlusconi was a generous man and tried to change this difficult country made of individualists," said his first coach at Milan, Arrigo Sacchi, in tears.