article

05.12.10

Juicy New Details on Berlusconi's Divorce Deal

Why the billionaire Italian prime minister gave his ex-wife a $105 million villa in exchange for his Sardinian pleasure pad and the movie rights to their lives.

Silvio Berlusconi is almost a free man. But it is going to cost him millions. After five hours in front of a Milan judge, Italy’s billionaire prime minister and his second wife, Veronica Lario, reportedly reached an out-of-court divorce settlement last weekend. The 53-year-old Lario filed for divorce a year ago after revelations that her 73-year-old husband attended the 18th birthday party of a Neapolitan underwear model who called him “Papa.” Lario who had previously written an op-ed piece in an opposition newspaper demanding an apology from her philandering husband, said then that she could no longer stay married to a man who “consorted with minors.”

Under the agreement, which was leaked to the press, the soon-to-be former Mrs. Berlusconi will get to keep the luxurious Milanese Villa Belvedere in Macherio, valued at $105 million, where she lives with the couple’s three children. Berlusconi will retain the Sardinian Villa Certosa, made famous by his orgiastic parties that were captured on film by a paparazzo and sold to newspapers across Europe last summer. He will also keep his Rome residence, which he uses as a personal “White House” to host lavish parties with dignitaries and friends. The Rome residence is most famous for the bedroom with “Putin’s bed” where Berlusconi was caught on tape directing a paid escort to wait for him while he showered.

Monthly maintenance for Veronica will be roughly $375,000—much less than the $4.4 million she requested when she filed for divorce. The prime minister, who is estimated to be worth $8 billion, will support the couple’s children through a separate trust fund. Each of the children will be adequately employed through the various entities of his media, publishing and insurance companies. Berlusconi’s two children from his previous marriage will maintain their directorships in his most important media holdings. His previous wife, whom he divorced only after he and Veronica had had three children together, will see no revenue losses to her own divorce settlement, estimated at $175,000 monthly.

Rather than fighting publicly, the couple, who had been married for 19 years, decided to negotiate amicably, likely because any public fight would include tawdry details of the prime minister’s bedroom habits and political vices. The prime minister, who is under intense pressure to keep his ruling coalition intact after he and his chief ally Gianfranco Fini sparred publicly last month, is in a tenuous political position and can take few risks. Facing a confidence vote during a lurid divorce trial could have meant political suicide, especially if Lario shared any of his personal business or political dealings.

Click Image to View Our Gallery of Berlusconi’s Beauties

In a somewhat strange twist in Italy’s divorce of the century, Lario has maintained her right to chronicle their life story in print. The two met when she was a topless actress at a small theater and had a torrid affair with Berlusconi while he was still married. She has already written one biography called The Veronica Tendency and plans are under way to write a sequel describing their life together, much of which they spent in separate residences. An astute media mogul, Berlusconi reportedly has maintained the film rights to their story, prohibiting Lario from ever turning her book into a movie.

The Rome residence is most famous for the bedroom with “Putin’s bed” where Berlusconi was caught on tape directing a paid escort to wait for him while he showered.

The seemingly amicable agreement comes as a relief. Last summer, Italians were bombarded with nude photos from the prime minister’s Sardinian parties and taped conversations between the prime minister and a notable escort who recorded their post-coital conversations on her cell phone. And rumors of Berlusconi’s sex addiction and prosthetic penis have long been Italian tabloid fodder. Confirmation of such details and more from his wife would likely be too much to bear for all involved.

Barbie Latza Nadeau, author of the Beast Book Angel Face, about Amanda Knox, has reported from Italy for Newsweek Magazine since 1997. She also writes for CNN Traveller, Budget Travel Magazine and Frommer's.