Silvio likely to keep Mediaset

TV co.'s shares close down

MILAN — The smart money is on Silvio Berlusconi retaining control of his media empire even as he takes the reins as Italy’s prime minister.

“Italy’s governments usually have a short life, lasting less than one year,” a Lehman Brothers analyst remarked to Daily Variety Tuesday. “Fearing that this time the Cabinet will not last long, decisions regarding Berlusconi’s media holdings will probably be frozen.”

Coalition’s in control

Berlusconi’s coalition gained 368 seats in the 630-seat Chamber of Deputies and 177 in the 324-seat Senate in national elections Sunday, while the center-left parties won 250 seats in the Chamber and 128 in the Senate.

Meanwhile, shares of the tycoon’s TV company Mediaset closed down almost 4% to 11.70 euros ($10.27) Tuesday in Milan.

Mediaset prexy and Berlusconi confidant Fedele Confalonieri said Monday night that Mediaset would solve potential conflicts of interest with “a sale of a stake to a telecom operator, Italian or international, or to a big player, in Europe or the U.S.”

But, he added, “the situation is complex and we’ll need to consider many factors.”

‘Let’s be serious’

Berlusconi had promised to solve the conflict within his first 100 days in office. But Confalonieri last week dismissed a blind trust as unworkable in a company with active management.

“What are we going to do, hand over a company like this to a notary? Let’s be serious,” he said.