Silvio Berlusconi born 29 September 1936 is an Italian politician, entrepreneur, media tycoon, frequent criminal defendant and convicted tax evader who served four times as Prime Minister of Italy, from 1994 to 1995, 2001 to 2006 and 2008 to 2011. Berlusconi is the controlling shareholder of Mediaset and owner of the Italian football club A.C. Milan. He is nicknamed Il Cavaliere (The Knight) for his Order of Merit for Labour. Berlusconi is the longest-serving post-war Prime Minister of Italy, and third longest-serving since the Unification of Italy, after Benito Mussolini and Giovanni Giolitti, holding three separate terms. He is the leader of the People of Freedom (PdL), a centre-right party he founded in 2009 as a successor to the Forza Italia party he previously led since 1993. From November 2009 to November 2011, he was the most senior leader of the G8 countries. In 2013, Forbes magazine ranked him as the 194th richest man in the world with a net worth of US$6.2 billion.
Berlusconi rapidly rose to the forefront of Italian politics in 1994. He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for the first time and appointed as Prime Minister following the 1994 parliamentary elections, when Forza Italia gained a relative majority a mere three months after having been launched. However, his cabinet collapsed after nine months, due to internal disagreements among the coalition parties. In the April 1996 snap parliamentary elections, Berlusconi was defeated by the centre-left candidate Romano Prodi. In the May 2001 parliamentary elections, he was again the centre-right candidate for Prime Minister and won against the centre-left candidate Francesco Rutelli. Berlusconi then formed his second and third cabinets, until 2006. Berlusconi was leader of the centre-right coalition in the April 2006 parliamentary elections, which he lost by a very narrow margin, his opponent again being Romano Prodi. He was re-elected in the parliamentary elections of April 2008 following the collapse of Prodi's government and sworn in for a third time as Prime Minister on 8 May 2008.
After losing his majority in parliament amid growing fiscal problems related to the European debt crisis, Berlusconi resigned as Prime Minister on 16 November 2011.In February 2013 Berlusconi has led the People of Freedom and its right-wing allies in the campaign for the parliamentary elections. Although he initially planned to run for a fifth term as Prime Minister, as part of the agreement with the Lega Nord he would instead plan to lead the coalition without becoming Prime Minister. Berlusconi's Centre-right Coalition gained 29% of votes, ranking second, after the centre-left coalition Italy Common Good led by Pier Luigi Bersani. Now the PdL is supporting the government of Enrico Letta, together with the Democratic Party and the centrist Civic Choice, of the former Prime Minister Mario Monti.
He was criticised for his electoral coalitions with right wing populist parties (the Lega Nord and the National Alliance) and for apologetic remarks about Mussolini, though he also officially apologised for Italy's actions in Libya during colonial rule. While in power, Berlusconi maintained ownership of Mediaset, the largest media company in Italy, and was criticised for his dominance of the Italian media. His leadership was also undermined by sex scandals.
Berlusconi has been involved in many controversies and over 20 court cases during his political career, including a conviction to 4 years prison and 5 years suspension of public functions by the Court of Appeals for 7 M€ tax evasion (and 280 M€ slush fund) on 8 May 2013, confirmed by the Court of Cassation on 1 August 2013. Due to a general pardon, his imprisonment was reduced to one year, which due to his age can be served either as a house arrest at his private residence or as community service.
On 24 June 2013 Berlusconi was found guilty of paying an underage prostitute for sex, and of abusing his powers in an ensuing cover up. He was sentenced to seven years in jail, and banned from public office for life. He is certain to appeal, and the sentence will not be enforced until the result of the trial is confirmed at appeal.