Berlusconi’s death increases business empire shakeup possibilities 2023

On Monday, shares in his family’s MFE-MediaForEurope broadcaster soared following former Italian prime leader Silvio Berlusconi’s death.

The shares’ buoyancy isn’t a statement of disdain for the millionaire who made his money in commercial television before entering politics, but rather an indication of the company’s potential once its creator leaves.

MFE, 48% controlled by the Berlusconi family’s Fininvest business, owns commercial TV networks in Italy and Spain and a large part in ProSieben.

It has expanded across Europe from its Italian beginnings to compete with US streaming titans.

Some investors believe his heirs may be more inclined to selling MFE or partnering with a larger rival in a shifting media landscape.

The industry favors Vivendi, MFE’s second-largest shareholder. Vivendi cannot increase its 23pc ownership until 2026 due to a 2021 standstill agreement that ended a years-long court battle.

MFE B-shares increased 10.3pc on Monday and were up 3.7pc at 1330 GMT, giving it a market value of 1.6 billion euros.

“When a company’s ownership is in question, investors will first buy and then see what happens,” said SDA Bocconi strategy professor Carlo Alberto Carnevale Maffè.

Pneumatic drill

The 86-year-old magnate never formally nominated an heir, but sources told Reuters his oldest child, Marina, who chairs Fininvest, is the most likely to succeed him.

Marina, 56, chairs Fininvest’s board since 2005. The family holding firm owns Mediolanum, Mondadori, and MFE.

Mondadori increased 1.7pc.

“Berlusconi may not have laid out succession plans for his party, but he certainly did for his businesses,” Carnevale Maffè added.

On Monday, Fininvest stated that its companies will not alter, and a source claimed Berlusconi’s children agreed.

Marina was Fininvest deputy chairperson for nine years before 2005.

Marina, a demanding boss, was launched into business life by her father in her early 20s, and her influence intensified when he entered politics in 1994.

Her father’s lifelong friend and MediaForEurope chairman Fedele Confalonieri called her “pneumatic drill” business drive.

She is a mother of two and married to a former La Scala ballet dancer. Over the past decade, her leadership at Fininvest has grown as her father’s health declined.

In a 2018 television interview, Berlusconi stated Marina was his closest child and that he consulted her everyday before making any choice, like he did with his mother before she died.

“Silvio put her down to work when she was barely more than a child,” Vittorio Giovanelli, a former director of Berlusconi’s Rete4 TV station, said in a 2003 book. He began taking Marina to business meetings in 1985.

“She listened and took notes for hours, she would never stop.”


Two ex-wives gave Berlusconi five children. Marina and Pier Silvio, his first-born children, run the family’s enterprises, unlike the other three.

Though not officially married, he called Marta Fascina his wife on his deathbed.

Italian law grants his children equal shares of two-thirds of his fortune, while the deceased can dispose of the remaining one-third.

Once a will is opened, Berlusconi’s asset distribution will be revealed.

Law expert Emanuele Lucchini Guastalla suggested using the one-third of assets that can be assigned freely to choose a Fininvest head if other assets are adequate to compensate the others.

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