Silvio Berlusconi has announced he will not run for prime minister in upcoming Italian elections, ending speculation about a political comeback and giving his ailing Mediaset TV empire a clearer picture of the backdrop for its recovery strategy.
The 76-year-old billionaire, who has been premier three times, dominating the country’s political scene for nearly two decades, said he would “take a step back” in an email released Wednesday night.
Berlusconi is not making a clean break from politics, however, saying he will remain at the side of younger pols in his People of Liberty party.
While Berlusconi has changed his mind in the past, his statement was widely considered a sign within political circles that the country will now move forward without him.
For Mediaset, which is being battered by a double-digit advertising downturn and TV audience fragmentation due to the digital switchover, Berlusconi’s news is likely to expedite necessary cost cuts and layoffs, which were being held back to avoid tarnishing his political image.
Having Berlusconi in power has always been seen as beneficial to Mediaset, but his chances of being re-elected prime minister were slim at best this time.