Berlusconi was born into a lower middle-class family and has managed to build up a multi-million euro business empire. Along the way he has become the owner of A.C. Milan and leader of the largest Italian media empire. He is also the third richest man in Italy and the country's longest serving prime minister.
Berlusconi is the son of Luigi Berlusconi, a Milan bank official, and Rosa Bossia housewife. He was the first of three children, the others being Maria Antonietta Berlusconi and Paolo Berlusconi, now both entrepreneurs.
After primary school, 12 years old Berlusconi was entrusted to the Salesian Fathers where he completed his classical studies. His former classmates remember how he used to do his homework in a flash and then help them with theirs in exchange for sweets, trinkets, but preferably 20 or 50 lira.
Berlusconi went on to reading law at the Università Statale di Milano where he graduated in 1961 with top marks. His thesis on Print Ads Contracts won him a prize of 2 million lira which had been offered by an advertising agency in Milan.
His career began in the building construction business shortly after when he became involved in the design of a garden city - Milano 2 - on the outskirts of Milan.
In 1973 he made his first venture into media when he became involved in a cable television setup to service Milano 2. Five years later he formed his first media group, Fininvest which later owned a string of local TV stations across the country. Today his main company - Mediaset - comprises three national television channels, which hold almost half the national viewing audience.
In 1993 Berlusconi founded his own political party, Forza Italia named after a chant used by fans of AC Milan. A year later he became Prime Minister, forming a coalition with the right-wing National Alliance and Northern League. However rivalries between the three leaders, coupled with Berlusconi's indictment for alleged tax fraud, led to the collapse of the government just seven months later. He lost the 1996 election to the left-wing Romano Prodi.
Typically, Berlusconi refused to give up and spent the next few years re-organising his party so that in 2001 he regained power with a coalition once more with his former partners.
However, further accusations of embezzlement, tax fraud and false accounting dogged the Prime Minister and culminated in a narrow election defeat in 2006. He lost once again to old rival Romano Prodi.
He was re-elected in the parliamentary elections of April 2008 following the collapse, on 24 January 2008, of Romano Prodi's government and sworn in as prime minister on 8 May 2008.
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