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The Two Faces of Berlusconi

So in case you are living under a rock, or here in America, Silvio Berlusconi resigned as Prime Minister of Italy on Saturday night. Yes, that is the same Silvio Berlusconi who owns our beloved club. And yes, as I understand it, he is thinking of stepping back into the club full time. Well, that is when he’s not attending court dates for the three ongoing cases currently against him. You see, there are two faces of Berlusconi - the benevolent purveyor of world class players and thus trophies for AC Milan, and the corrupt Italian businessman and politician. We can only hope they stay separate, for the love of our beloved club.

 
Good or evil, he'll always agree on the ladies.

It’s hard to think that one person could get themselves into so much trouble. I mean, politically, Italy is known to be very, very volatile. In fact, his regime is one of the longest serving regimes in a long time. And certainly from the outside, Italy is known to bend to certain crime-related influences, even if here in America, politics are also influenced by groups who are hardly concerned about the greater good.

But not to wax too political, Berlusconi won 3 elections for Prime Minister, but also lost 2 along the way. Which in football is a decent 3 points, and for the political climate in Italy, probably not a bad record, either. However in his last 3 years in office, he was subjected to 50 votes of confidence, each time seemingly losing more support. In fact, his popularity took a personal turn for the worse when he was accosted by “a madman” just two years ago who threw a statuette at him and hit him in the face.

He was hit in the face with a statuette in December of 2009


How did he lose all of his support? Was it his politics? Or the companies and special interest groups that seemed to dictate his politics? His leadership? Or the way it seemed to suit him and his own interests? Or maybe the ever growing list of charges against him? Perhaps it was the Bunga Bunga parties, with stories getting increasingly more wild until he was accused of actually crossing legal lines? Again, being in America, I don’t claim to know enough to say for sure, only that the world’s media was not so fond of him.

Having started out as a vacuum cleaner salesman and also earning money by singing in nightclubs and on cruise ships, he earned a degree in law. His first company was a construction company developing residential housing in the Milano area. He then set up a local television company that grew into what is now known as Mediaset. Through his Fininvest company, he owns not only AC Milan but Mondadori, the biggest publishing house in Italy, as well as the newspaper Il Giornale, amongst other things. But this success, too, has been clouded with accusations of fraud, embezzlement, false accounting, and tax fraud, amongst other things.

It must have been his singing career that led to him co-writing "Inno Milan"

His political and business worlds worked nicely together for him for some time, perhaps part of the reason he wanted to stay in power for so long. You see, he managed to get a law passed that would prevent him from being tried for any crimes while in office, as it would be a distraction to him. Unfortunately for him, once that law was found to be unconstitutional in January of this year, it opened up a Pandora’s box full of charges that had been waiting for him, including the one where the judge ordered Fininvest to pay the ginormous fine of 560 million euros.

And don’t get me started with the ladies. Two marriages and 5 children later, now he faces charges involving sex with an underaged prostitute, and using his political office to help said prostitute get out of jail. And that’s just the one on the books right now. He is well known for cavorting with minors, the reason his second wife gave for divorcing him. Everyone has heard of the Bunga Bunga parties, he’s even allegedly used state helicopters to fly in the ladies of the evening for his parties. Geez, what some guys will risk to try to prove their heterosexuality to themselves.

Always review your assets, even before awarding the trophy.

But then there’s the other side of Berlusconi, whose benevolence inspired him to purchase the club in 1986 and brought in world class players who in turn earned cabinets full of trophies. His shrewd businessman side saw the opportunity. His hunger for success fueled the purchase of players who could win the trophies. His continued generosity has seen the club become one of the best and most successful clubs in the world.

It is his dreams, his passions, and his financial backing that have built this beautiful club for all of us to enjoy. His wisdom in making Galliani his right hand man, who is a genius in the transfer market. Maybe given all of the persecution he faces, it was not wise for him to continue to hang onto his love, but not even all of that could tarnish the successful club he built.

We as fans have been so very blessed by the charitable side of Berlusconi. His penchant for nice things has given us the very best of everything, with even world class medical and training facilities for our world class players to enjoy. I know I for one am eternally grateful, it is so much more fun to be able to support a team like this, even if I would support them in Serie C2 or worse.

So what will become of Berlusconi? Will he take the reins of the club back? Or will he end up doing jail time? Will he infuse more cash, even after legal fees and the Fininvest fine may have left him short on funds? Or will his influence and presence be a distraction due to his legal woes? For me, basically everything that is good about Milan has come as a result of him. And yet, in the Piazza del Quirinale the other night, thousands of people acted as if he was a supervillain. As a fan, I can only hope that Milan continues to be blessed by the good face of Mr. Berlusconi and that the other face is kept very, very separate.


This post inspired by the music of U2