According to Forbes, Berlusconi is Italy's third richest man, estimated to own assets worth $9 billion in 2010, in the fields of television, newspapers, publishing, cinema, finance, banking, insurance, and sport. As of 2011, Forbes ranked him as the 118th richest man in the world.
Berlusconi's political rise was rapid and surrounded by some controversy. He was elected as a Member of the Chamber of Deputies for the first time and appointed as Prime Minister following the March 1994 parliamentary elections, when Forza Italia gained a relative majority a mere three months after having been officially launched. However, his cabinet collapsed after nine months, due to internal disagreements in his coalition. In the April 1996 snap parliamentary elections, Berlusconi was defeated by the centre-left candidate Romano Prodi. In the May 2001 parliamentary elections, he was again the centre-right candidate for Prime Minister and won against the centre-left candidate Francesco Rutelli. Berlusconi then formed his second and third cabinets, until 2006.
Berlusconi was leader of the centre-right coalition in the April 2006 parliamentary elections, which he lost by a very narrow margin, his opponent again being Romano Prodi. He was re-elected in the parliamentary elections of April 2008 following the collapse of Prodi's government and sworn in for a third time as Prime Minister on 8 May 2008.
Berlusconi was criticised for his dominance over the Italian media whilst he held political office. His broadcasting company Mediaset is the largest in the country and Berlusconi never fulfilled his election promises to sell off his assets in the company to avoid a conflict of interest.
In 1978 Berlusconi founded his first media group, Fininvest, and joined the Propaganda Due masonic lodge. In the five years leading up to 1983 he earned some 113 billion Italian liras (€58.3 million). The funding sources are still unknown because of the complex system of holding companies that makes them impossible to trace, despite investigations conducted by various state attorneys.
Silvio Berlusconi has an extensive record of criminal allegations, including mafia collusion, false accounting, tax fraud, corruption and bribery of police officers and judges. Berlusconi has been tried in Italian courts in several cases. In three of these cases accusations were dropped by the judiciary because of laws passed by Berlusconi's parliamentary majority shortening the time limit for prosecution of various offences and making false accounting illegal only if there is a specific damaged party reporting the fact to the authorities. In all of them, but one, either he was acquitted by a court of first instance or on appeal, or charges were dropped because the statute of limitations had expired. Therefore he has not been sentenced up to now, despite having been found guilty of providing false testimony in 1990.
Berlusconi's main company, Mediaset, comprises three national television channels, which together cover approximately a half of the national television sector; and Publitalia, the leading Italian advertising and publicity agency. Berlusconi also owns a controlling stake in Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, the largest Italian publishing house, whose publications include Panorama, one of the country's most popular news magazines. His brother, Paolo Berlusconi, owns and operates il Giornale, a centre-right wing newspaper which provides a strong pro-Berlusconi slant on Italy and its politics. Il Foglio, one of the most influential Italian right-wing newspapers, is partially owned by his wife, Veronica Lario. After selling her stocks in 2010, Paolo Berlusconi acquired a commanding interest. Berlusconi is also the founder and major shareholder of Fininvest, which is among the largest private companies in Italy and currently operates in media and finance. With Ennio Doris he founded Mediolanum, one of the country's biggest banking and insurance groups. He has interests in cinema and home video distribution (Medusa Film and Penta Film).
He is also the owner of the football club A.C. Milan which along with Boca Juniors has won the most FIFA recognized international club titles in the world.