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World News

FACTBOX: Facts about Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi

ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was hospitalized with a broken nose and teeth after a protester hurled a small model of Milan’s cathedral at him on Sunday. Here are some facts about the conservative leader.

* Berlusconi made his fortune during a property boom in Milan in the 1960s. He then moved into television and his family now owns the country’s leading private TV network. His interests also include Italian soccer club AC Milan. Combining smooth talk with a common touch, he is one of Italy’s richest men.

* Born in Milan in September 1936, Berlusconi entered politics in January 1994 promoting a “you can be rich like me” message. He was elected prime minister and took office in May 1994 but survived in office for just eight months.

* Swept back to power by a landslide victory in 2001, Berlusconi promised to revolutionize hidebound Italy. But change came slower than many hoped and he lost a parliamentary election in April 2006 by the narrowest margin in Italian history. He came back to power last year on a law and order platform.

* Berlusconi has kept control of his media empire, laying himself open to accusations of a conflict between his political and business interests and leaving him vulnerable to numerous corruption investigations into him and his companies. He has never been convicted of any crime and faces the reopening of several trials against him after being stripped of immunity from prosecution.

* He has spent much of the year facing lurid scandals surrounding his private life, including allegations of an improper relationship with a teenage model, to parties with escorts. His wife asked for a divorce earlier this year, saying she could not stay with a man “who frequents minors.”

* In late 2006 he was admitted to hospital with a minor heart problem after fainting. He underwent successful heart surgery in a U.S. hospital in January 2007.

* In December 2004, a 28-year old bricklayer hurled a camera tripod at his head, causing a minor injury behind his right ear. The culprit first said he did it “because I hate him” but later wrote a letter to Berlusconi saying he had acted in a moment of “deplorable euphoria.”

Berlusconi later said he forgave his attacker and invited him to visit him in Rome.

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