Rome, (Italy) - Three-time Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi turned 80 on Thursday.
The media magnate and leader of the opposition centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party continues to provoke contrasting reactions among the Italian public - adored by supporters and loathed by opponents.
He founded Italy's first nationwide private television network, Mediaset, and rose to international fame by taking control of AC Milan in 1986 and payrolling a period of enormous success on the field that followed. The billionaire is currently in the process of selling Milan, one of his most prized possessions, to a Chinese consortium.
His political career has been hampered by a series of judicial problems and sex scandals and he was ejected from the Senate after being definitively convicted of tax fraud in 2013.
Berlusconi, who is gradually returning to the political fray after having heart surgery earlier this year, once said he was the man most persecuted by magistrates in history.
On Tuesday he held a meeting with Northern League leader Matteo Salvini and Giorgio Meloni of the Brothers of Italy (FdI) party on keeping the centre right united ahead of the December referendum on Premier Matteo Renzi's Constitutional reform package to overhaul Italy's political machinery. (Ansa)