Berlusconi -- no longer Italy's richest man

ROME, March 6 (Reuters) - Weeks ahead of Italy’s election for prime minister, candidate Silvio Berlusconi lost a different kind of competition -- who has the country’s deepest pockets.

The billionaire media mogul was knocked off the top of Forbes’ list of the richest Italians by the man behind Tic Tac sweets and chocolate spread Nutella, Michele Ferrero.

Ferrero’s $11 billion in wealth trumped the Berlusconi family’s $9.4 billion.

The upset ended a 12-year run for Berlusconi, a two-time prime minister who stormed to the top of the Forbes’ list in 1996, after building a business empire that stretched from the small screen to the soccer pitch.

Worse still, Berlusconi isn’t even the second-richest Italian. That glory goes to sunglasses king Leonardo Del Vecchio, whose company Luxottica boasts brands like RayBan. “Berlusconi isn’t King of the super-rich anymore,” read the headline in left-leaning La Repubblica newspaper, a critic of the 71-year-old conservative politician.

Ranked the world’s 90th richest man, down from 51st last year, Berlusconi is still nearly twice as wealthy as Italian fashion icon Giorgio Armani. He is three times as rich as any of the Benetton family billionaires, according to Forbes.

The Forbes profile of Berlusconi can been seen on its Web site: here

Writing by Phil Stewart; Editing by Richard Balmforth