Posted by Jan den Breejen (18.104.22.168) on July 03, 2003 at 00:43:31:
Seems to be mostly Self Confident Style to me.
Profile: Silvio Berlusconi
Mr Berlusconi seized his chance to enter politics in 1993
Silvio Berlusconi is Italy's richest man whose reach is hard to escape.
An Italian can spend a Saturday shopping at his local supermarket, relaxing in his home, reading a paper, before flicking through a few TV channels to watch AC Milan play football, and all these services may have been provided by his prime minister.
For Mr Berlusconi is the head of a vast business empire spanning newspapers, TV and radio, film, football, advertising, insurance, food and construction.
For some Italians, Mr Berlusconi's success as a business tycoon is evidence of his capabilities - a reason why he should run the country.
But his business involvements have caused a series of legal problems which have tarnished his image.
Most recently, he has been in court for allegedly bribing judges - a trial that was halted by the introduction of controversial immunity laws.
Born on 29 September, 1936 into a lower-class Milan family, Mr Berlusconi started honing his business skills at a young age.
He used his charm to sell everything from vacuum cleaners to university essays during his youth, activities complemented by stints as a nightclub singer.
This was just the warm-up.
Only I can turn this country around
In 1961, he graduated in law and started his business career in earnest, borrowing from the bank where his father worked to set up his first company, Elinord.
With Elinord, a construction company, Mr Berlusconi established himself as a residential housing developer around his native Milan.
Milano 2, comprising nearly 4,000 tasteful flats in a garden setting, was built on the city's eastern outskirts in the late 1960s.
Not content with providing the residents solely with housing, 10 years later he launched a local cable-television - Telemilano - a project which would grow and grow until the Berlusconi family firm controlled three commercial TV channels.
As the media empire - which now also includes Italy's largest publishing house Mondadori and the leading daily newspaper Il Giornale - was being built, Mr Berlusconi's company Fininvest had taken nearly 150 other companies under its umbrella.
But despite having friends in the government, Mr Berlusconi had not himself made any moves to enter the political fray.
Enter stage right
All that changed in 1993, when Mr Berlusconi founded his own political party, Forza Italia - Go Italy - named after a chant used by fans of the AC Milan football club - which he also owns.
He saw his chance as judges in Milan purged the country's old political class in "Operation Clean Hands", aimed at eliminating the corruption which had tainted public life.
In 1994, Mr Berlusconi became prime minister, forming a coalition with the right-wing National Alliance and Northern League.
But rivalries between the three leaders, coupled with Mr Berlusconi's indictment for tax fraud by a Milan court, led to the collapse of the government just seven months later.
As ever, Mr Berlusconi refused to be deterred and spent the next few years re-organising his party.
By 2001, he was back on the throne, in coalition once more with his former partners.
But accusations have continued to dog him.
The collapsed trial involved claims that he tried to bribe judges to stop a business rival taking over state-owned food group SME in the 1980s.
He describes the charge as "fantasy" and says he is the victim of a political campaign by left-wing judges.
Mr Berlusconi has also been embarrassed by the conviction in April of his former personal lawyer, Cesare Previti, for bribing a judge during a takeover battle to favour his Fininvest company.
Now, under the new immunity law - which was pushed through parliament in record time - Mr Berlusconi will not have to appear in court while he remains in office.
Over the past two years, many Italians have tolerated, and even admired, some of the more tycoon-like aspects of their leader.
But as many as two-thirds of the electorate are against the law.
Opposition politicians are vowing to seek a referendum to overturn the law, and a Milan court has challenged its legality in the constitutional court.
So Mr Berlusconi's battles with Italy's judges may yet be continued.
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