Berlusconi Adds $1.5 Billion to Fortune Amid Court Losses

Silvio Berlusconi’s fortune has increased by $1.5 billion this year even as the former Italian prime minister lost four criminal-court judgments since January.

The 76-year-old senator, convicted of tax fraud last week, ranked 33rd among year-to-date percentage gainers on the 200-person Bloomberg Billionaires Index as of Aug. 7, two spots above Warren Buffett. His wealth rose 26 percent to $7.6 billion. The advance was powered by gains in his insurer, Mediolanum SpA, whose shares returned 53 percent in Milan, and broadcaster Mediaset SpA, which has more than doubled.

“I am rated the best Italian entrepreneur since World War II,” Berlusconi said in a Feb. 5 interview on the government’s RAI television. “By everyone, by all the public rankings. Can you name another?”

Leonardo Del Vecchio, the founder of eyewear maker Luxottica SpA, outpaced Berlusconi in the period by adding 30 percent to his fortune, now estimated at about $19 billion. Michele Ferrero, Italy’s richest person, trailed the two with a gain of 13 percent. The owner of Nutella-maker Ferrero SpA added about $2.7 billion to his estimated wealth of $24 billion.

Berlusconi, a three-time premier, retains influence over the government even after he exhausted all of his appeals on the tax verdict. Berlusconi is head of the second-biggest party in parliament and in April became a partner in Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s ruling coalition.

Sentenced to four years in prison, Berlusconi is unlikely to spend a day in jail, given Italy’s effort to reduce prison populations and the leniency traditionally accorded to criminals over the age of 70. Ultimately, his penalty may involve house arrest or community service. Italy’s top court rejected Berlusconi’s final appeal on Aug. 1. He has maintained his innocence.

Legal Setbacks

The original tax-fraud verdict was handed down in October. He lost his first appeal in May. Berlusconi was convicted of illegal use of wiretaps in March; in June, he was found guilty of abuse of power and engaging a minor in prostitution. He is appealing these verdicts and has denied all wrongdoing, saying his trials are political persecution.

AC Milan, Berlusconi’s privately held soccer team, made the Champions League after it signed striker Mario Balotelli this year. Berlusconi’s wealth is concentrated in his Fininvest SpA investment company.

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