Mediaset Shares Dip Amid Latest Berlusconi Allegations

Silvio Berlusconi - Political Plans and Legal Charges
Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi has often been seen as the teflon media mogul - always facing legal and other charges, but never really facing consequences. In Oct. 2012 though, a court sentenced the head of media group Mediaset, whose stock has been dropping amid weak ad trends, to four years in prison in a tax evasion case - marking the first time he is facing time behind bars. And just before Christmas, prosecutors also called for a prison sentence of at least one year for Berlusconi on charges of publishing information about a political rival that was obtained illegally. The three-time prime minister, meanwhile, announced he would run for a fourth term in early 2013 after having left political office in late 2011.
 

Italy's prime minister and Europe's wealthiest media tycoon, announced Sunday night that he has a new girlfriend.

 

ROME -- Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's prime minister and Europe's wealthiest media tycoon, announced Sunday night that he has a new girlfriend.

The 74-year-old Berlusconi, whose wife filed for divorce nearly two years ago, did not name the lucky girl -- but the Italian media has been ripe with speculation since his Sunday night televised remarks.

The billionaire behind Italy's Mediaset broadcast and film empire revealed his relationship while defending himself against charges that he employed a prostitute and exotic dancer called Karima el Mahrough, but who is better known by the stage name "Ruby."

"I never, ever paid for sex," Berlusconi said Sunday. His revelation of his secret relationship came as he was listing reasons why it would have been impossible to have had an illicit relationship with el Mahrough, who was 17 when she first met Berlusconi.

Berlusconi's former wife, Veronica Lario, 54, announced she would file for divorce in May 2008, claiming that her husband was a "sex addict" with "a taste for very young girls." Since then, the prime minister has been linked with several young woman, including a Neapolitan model who said she was told to called Berlusconi "daddy." But Berlusconi has denied any wrongdoing.

In Italy, a couple must first reach a separation agreement before they can be divorced. That process has already started: last year, Berlusconi agreed to pay €3.5 million per year in alimony and cede to her control of at least two residences.

In trading Monday, Mediaset shares dipped 3%, in part on speculation that the latest accusations could distract Berlusconi from the company's affairs.