June 7, 2016 / 9:17 AM / 2 years ago

Ex-Italian prime minister Berlusconi hospitalized for heart problem

MILAN (Reuters) - Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, one of Italy’s richest and most polarizing men, was hospitalized on Tuesday for a heart problem but his condition was not life-threatening, a spokesman said.

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi gestures as he makes his speech during a presentation of Rome's mayoral candidate Alfio Marchini (not seen) in Rome, Italy May 10, 2016 REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The 79-year-old center-right leader and media mogul, who was prime minister four times, was suffering from what Milan’s San Raffaele hospital called a “cardiac deficiency”.

Berlusconi, who had a pacemaker implanted in a U.S. hospital when he was 70, would undergo tests in the next few days to determine the proper therapy, a hospital statement said.

A spokeswoman for his Forza Italia party said his condition was not life threatening.

Berlusconi’s political influence has waned since he left government in 2011. His preferred candidate for Rome mayor, real estate mogul Alfio Marchini, made such a poor showing in local elections this weekend that he was excluded in the first round.

Berlusconi’s legal woes have also forced him to take a back seat from the political scene.

The former cruise-ship crooner, who has seen his once powerful center-right become increasingly fragmented in recent years, lost his parliamentary immunity when he was ejected from the Senate in 2013 following a conviction for tax fraud.

Last year, a court in southern Italy found him guilty of bribing a senator to switch factions in a move which helped topple a center-left government in 2008.

That court also banned him from holding any public office for five years.

Also in 2015, Italy’s highest court confirmed an acquittal for Berlusconi on charges of abuse of office and paying for sex with a minor in the most sensational trial he faced.

Berlusconi was accused of paying for sex with former teenage nightclub dancer Kharima El Mahroug, known by her stage name “Ruby the Heartstealer”, during “bunga bunga” erotic parties at his palatial home near Milan when he was prime minister in 2010.

News of his hospitalization pushed shares in Mediaset, the TV company owned by his family holding, up 2 percent. Traders said the episode might induce the family to make succession arrangements that could provide new investment opportunities for the market.

Berlusconi’s business empire also includes soccer team AC Milan. He is currently in talks with a Chinese consortium to sell a majority stake in the club.

(Adds dropped word ‘showing’ in fifth paragraph.)

Additional reporting by Valentina Consiglio, Valentina Za and Danilo Masoni, writing by Philip Pullella, editing by Angus MacSwan

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