Inside Move: Berlusconi’s empire up for grabs

Potential buyers line up for Mediaset units

MILAN — Media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, the front-runner to become Italy’s prime minister in two weeks, may have to act soon to resolve conflicts of interest with his $12 billion business empire.

Scuttlebutt in Italy is that potential buyers and corporate allies are scurrying to bite off a piece of Berlusconi’s TV interests grouped under the Mediaset banner.

Top execs at Berlusconi’s main holding company Fininvest have said Berlusconi may sell significant parts of his holdings if he wins the election.

Roberto Colaninno, chairman of Telecom Italia, has reiterated his interest in joining forces with Mediaset.

Investment bank Lehman Brothers is apparently preparing the groundwork for a merger between Mediaset and Telecom Italia’s multimedia and telephone book unit Seat.

Meanwhile, a major story in this week’s edition of the British mag the Economist has Italy all abuzz: The four-page report terms Berlusconi “unfit to lead Italy.” The tycoon termed the story and the treatment of criminal allegations against him as “trash” and is suing the publisher.