Berlusconi’s son on growing up in Italy’s first family

Pier Silvio Berlusconi,  vice president of the Mediaset group, in Cologno Monzese, Italy in March, 2009.
Pier Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s eldest son and a top official in his media empire, says his father was “always there for me.”

Berlusconi, 40, is vice chairman of Mediaset SpA, the Italian commercial television network founded by his father and now owned by the Berlusconi family through the holding company, Fininvest. He’s held several positions at the company since joining in 1992, at the age of 23, following a serious motorcycle accident. He started in the marketing department of Publitalia, the company’s advertising group. Four years later, he was appointed director of scheduling and program coordination for Mediaset’s three channels. In an interview with CNN’s Hada Messia, the younger Berlusconi says his father, Italy’s longest-serving prime minister, was “always a very present father” even though there were periods he saw him more and times he saw him less. Watch more on the private life of Silvio Berlusconi “He was always a busy man,” Pier Silvio Berlusconi says of his 73-year-old father, who besides being the Italian head of state, is also a billionaire media entrepreneur, real estate and insurance tycoon, bank proprietor, sports team owner and song-writer. “I never felt like something, or even more the father figure, was missing,” he said. The younger Berlusconi, the prime minister’s second child, says he grew up in a “totally normal family … at least until my father began to go into work in politics. It was a normal family, a healthy family.” Asked what makes a normal Italian family, the younger Berlusconi replied: “A normal Italian family is where certain values are always very present. Some of these values are connected to being a family. Being closer to each other and respecting certain traditions, being there for one another.”

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Pier Silvio and Marina Berlusconi, the prime minister’s oldest child and also a top official in his media empire, the billionaire entrepreneur’s children with first wife, Carla Elvira Dall’Oglio. The couple divorced in 1985 and Berlusconi went on to marry actress Veronica Lario, with whom he had three more children. In May of this year, Lario announced she was filing for divorce after the Italian press reported the prime minister attended the birthday party of an 18-year-old Neapolitan model. Asked what he learned from his father, Pier Silvio Berlusconi said that as a young boy, his father taught him normal father-son things like “how to swim” and play tennis. The most important thing he taught him in life though, he told CNN, was “respect for other people. I am impressed by how much respect he always has for the other person.” The younger Berlusconi said he got into his father’s business by accident in 1992 after suffering a terrible motorbike accident. “I had a very bad motorbike accident when I was 20 years old,” Pier Silvio Berlusconi told CNN. “I couldn’t walk for one year. After that, I decided I wanted to do something more than just being in college.” He then joined Mediaset, which was not listed on the stock market at the time.

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Berlusconi says when his father decided to go into politics in 1994 — something the elder Berlusconi says he did to stop the advance of the Left in Italy — “he totally disappeared.” “In Mediaset, in our company, he was very very present and operative before and he stopped being here. He stopped existing basically,” Berlusconi said. “From there on, my job was a continuous revolution and I started looking into things I never thought I would have. In three or four years, I found myself completely into the veins of the company and having important responsibility.” He said his father “never even knew exactly what I was doing or what my work was. I know this can sound strange, but it is the way things went.” Pier Silvio Berlusconi says he has no plans to follow his father into the political arena, however, saying politics is not something you can learn. “You have it or you don’t have it,” he said. Asked to describe his flamboyant father in a few words, Pier Silvio Berlusconi replied: “Positive energy.” “He’s like a battery,” he said, “full of energy always, always positive, towards people, towards things he has to do, towards problems which he always tries to do everything he can to resolve.” “He is really unique in as far as how much passion and devotion he puts into what he does,” his son told CNN. “He did a lot as a businessman and now as a politician.” Asked about the passion his dad feels for his sports team, Italian soccer team AC Milan, Pier Silvio Berlusconi said: “When my father went into Milan, the passion became a really big passion.”

“We had many many happy times connected to Milan,” Pier Silvio Berlusconi said, “so it is not only a passion that has to do with a sport. “For me, it is part of my family and what my father has done.”