Italy's Banca Mediolanum founder Ennio Doris dies at 81

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ROME, Nov 24 (Reuters) - The founder of Italian asset manager Banca Mediolanum (BMED.MI) Ennio Doris died early on Wednesday, a company statement said. He was 81.

A close friend and financial partner of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Doris launched Programma Italia, a network of financial consultants and predecessor of Banca Mediolanum, in 1982.

Banca Mediolanum was a forerunner in the sector of digital banking as it launched in 1997 with no branches and was the first bank to offer its services over the phone and teletext.

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Shares in the lender were up 2.56% at 8.80 euros in morning trading, outperforming Milan's blue chip FTSE MIB index (.FTMIB), which was up 0.19%.

"The shares rise because there is speculation that the possibility of a merger with Mediobanca could return to the table," a Milan-based trader said.

He noted that although management of the company had been handed over to Ennio's son Massimo, now chief executive of the bank, the possibility of control changing at Banca Mediolanum was not "realistic" as the family had a majority stake in the bank.

Banca Mediolanum has been a long-standing investor in Mediobanca - at the centre of the informal club that has pulled the strings in post-war corporate Italy - and is now the second-largest shareholder in Mediobanca with a 3.3% stake.

Earlier this month, Massimo Doris said the bank had rebuffed a merger proposal by Milanese investment bank Mediobanca (MDBI.MI) as it preferred to remain independent.

A source close to the matter had told Reuters that contacts between Mediobanca and Mediolanum over a tie up had not gone beyond explorative talks.

Banca Mediolanum said in the past that its investment in Mediobanca was no longer strategic given the uncertainty over the bank's future governance after billionaire Leonardo Del Vecchio became its top investor.

Unlike Del Vecchio, the Doris family has always reiterated its support for the management strategies of Mediobanca's Chief Executive Alberto Nagel.

Ennio Doris had stepped down in September as chairman of the bank and in November was appointed honorary president.

He is survived by wife Lina Tombolato, daughter Sara and son, Massimo.

(This story corrects reference in seventh paragraph to "Mediolanum", from "Mediobanca")

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Reporting by Giulia Segreti, editing by Cristina Carlevaro and Bernadette Baum

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