Italian newspapers claim Silvio Berlusconi ‘conquered everything with AC Milan’ in tributes

Berlusconi was born in 1936 in Milan to a bank employee father and a housewife mother. He went on to father five children, all involved in the running of his business empire.

As a young man, he was quick to realise his talents as an entertainer.

A huge fan of Nat King Cole, he played double bass in a band and made club audiences laugh with jokes during breaks from his law studies at the University of Milan.

As a student, he worked briefly as a cruise ship singer before launching a lucrative career in the booming construction sector in his 20s, which delivered his first fortune.

These funds were used to build a vast conglomerate spanning shops, cinemas, publishers, newspapers and cable television, where he broke new ground with commercial programmes filled with scantily clad women.

Crucially for his public persona, his empire also included football, one of Italy’s great passions.

As well as providing money for AC Milan, he regularly delivered dressing room and training ground pep talks during a period in which the club became one of the world’s most celebrated and trophied success stories.

Silvio Berlusconi, president of AC Milan, lifts the Champions League trophy with his team after they won the European Cup against Benfica in 1990, in Vienna, Austria

Five of AC Milan’s seven European Cup/Champions League triumphs were achieved under Berlusconi’s 31-year ownership.

He sold the club in 2017 after years of lacklustre performances, and in 2018 bought Monza, then in Italy’s third tier.

On the world stage, Berlusconi was known for his friendships with the likes of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Russian president Vladimir Putin – the latter of whom he controversially defended following the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

He had no time for traditional diplomacy, once likening a German European MP to a Nazi and describing former US president Barack Obama as ‘suntanned’.

His image was further tarnished when lurid details emerged of his sex parties at his villa near Milan with its private disco, during a hugely embarrassing trial involving a 17-year-old nightclub dancer.

Berlusconi was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2013 for paying for sex with Karima El-Mahroug, known as ‘Ruby the Heart Stealer’ – but this was later overturned after the judge said there was reasonable doubt that he knew she was underage.

He then stood accused of bribing witnesses to lie about his parties, which he always insisted were elegant dinners. He was acquitted in three related trials.

A relationship with another teenager led to the end of his second marriage with former actress Veronica Lario, who left him in 2009 over his ‘cavorting with minors’.

In March 2022, he held a bizarre fake wedding with his girlfriend Marta Fascina, then 32.