Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has died aged 86: Italian media

Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi has died aged 86: Italian media
Berlusconi suffered from a number of health issues, and was hospitalised on Friday in Milan following a lung infection linked to leukaemia.
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Berlusconi, a billionaire tycoon and controversial political figure, died in hospital in Milan [Getty]

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a billionaire businessman who created Italy's largest media company before transforming the political landscape, has died, Italian media said on Monday.

He died at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, media sources stated.

The billionaire media mogul was admitted to the Milan hospital on Friday for what aides said were pre-planned tests related to his leukaemia.

Berlusconi, 86, had been suffering from blood cancer "for some time" and had recently developed a lung infection linked to a chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia, before he was readmitted to hospital.

Berlusconi's Forza Italia party is part of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's right-wing coalition, and although he himself did not have a role in government, his death is likely to destabilise Italian politics in the coming months.

The former Prime Minister first came to office in 1994 and led four governments until 2011, despite being plagued by corruption allegations, a tax fraud conviction and a number of sex scandals. In 2017, he made a political comeback.

Berlusconi had suffered ill health for years, from heart surgery in 2016 to a 2020 hospitalisation for coronavirus. Despite being re-elected to the Senate last year, he was rarely seen in public

But his influence extended well beyond politics, thanks to his extensive TV, newspaper and sporting interests, while his playboy antics kept him in the headlines even in his final years.

He is survived by his 33-year-old girlfriend, Marta Fascina, two ex-wives and five children, some of whom help run his empire, recently estimated to be worth some seven billion dollars.

While it is too soon for details of his funeral, Berlusconi built a Pharaoh-inspired marble mausoleum at his villa in Arcore, near Milan, to house his family and friends when they die.