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A topsy-turvy turn for titan

Berlusconi's week goes from sour to sweet

Silvio Berlusconi and his Mediaset TV empire had a rollercoaster ride last week.

First, tax police searched offices of the broadcaster’s Fininvest holding company in Milan where Berlusconi is facing a tax fraud trial.

At the same time, Mediaset chairman Fedele Confalonieri was in Rome before a parliamentary committee, bemoaning a proposed media law that would impose a 45% market share ad cap, which he claims could cost Mediaset as much as $1 billion in lost revenues.

But the next day saw Berlusconi’s prospects brighten considerably: The nine-month-old Italian government collapsed.

Mediaset shares jumped 1.3% as the company’s interests got a sudden boost.

“There is very little political risk for Mediaset now,” says a Milan media analyst, who notes that even if the current coalition survives the crisis as expected, a reconfigured center-left government would lack the muscle to pass the media bill in its current form.

As Prime Minister Romano Prodi tendered his resignation, Berlusconi was all white-toothed smiles, vowing to “resume and complete the work that was interrupted” when he lost the April 2006 elections.

While the TV-tycoon-turned-premier’s return to power is seen as unlikely, the prospect is not entirely impossible.

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