The former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has died aged 86, according to the country’s leading news agency, Ansa.
The media tycoon, who led three Italian governments between 1994 and 2011 and whose Forza Italia party is a junior partner in the current ruling coalition, had been suffering from leukaemia for some time.
He died at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, where he had spent 6 weeks undergoing treatment for a lung infection before being readmitted.
Born in Milan in 1936, Berlusconi began his business career in property development before going on to found Mediaset, Italy’s largest commercial broadcaster. He also owned AC Milan football club between 1986 and 2017.
Forza Italia was founded in 1993. A year later, Berlusconi was the first PM to be elected without previously having held a government office and his second term in office, between 2001 and 2006, is the longest served by any Italian leader since the second world war. He returned to power in 2008 but was forced to resign in 2011 amid an acute debt crisis.
Berlusconi was convicted of tax fraud in late 2012, for which he served his year-long sentence doing part-time community service at a residential home in Milan. His ban on running for office was lifted in time for the general elections in 2018.
In 2019, Berlusconi won a seat in the European parliament and in general elections in October 2022 his party returned to power in a coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy.
Nicknamed Il Cavaliere (the knight), Berlusconi was often considered the “kingmaker” in Italian politics.