From his arrival in Milan from Sicily to complete his university studies, up to the collaboration relationship with the former premier, of which he was manager for the Fininvest Group and with whom he founded the Forza Italia party in 1993. The life and career of one of the Knight’s most loyal collaborators
“He was a unique character and always has been.” This is how Marcello Dell’Utri wanted to remember his lifelong friend Silvio Berlusconi, who passed away on 12 June 2023. As evidence of how closely their lives have intertwined over the course of 60 years, the former prime minister left a legacy in his will of 30 million euros to his closest and most loyal collaborator. In fact, the former business executive and politician played a fundamental role in Berlusconi’s existence. The news of the bequest, however, surprised Dell’Utri himself, who did not fail to express his incredulity and gratitude. “When he called me the notary, I was shocked by the news,” he said on July 6. “I didn’t expect it because he owed me nothing. The affection remained even without this material gesture, which demonstrates the greatness of the man”, he added, explaining that he “gave everything for Berlusconi, and he for me” and also underlining the deep connection between them.
Dell’Utri moved by Berlusconi’s generosity
In his recollection of his friend, Dell’Utri described Berlusconi as a brother and recounted their long friendship. He revealed that the Knight has always supported him, even providing him with notes during his college years. “He sold the mimeographed notes to the Cortina bookstore, but he gave them to me”, he recalled, explaining how they met at the time. The former senator admitted that he was moved to tears by this gesture of generosity, noting that it was the meaning behind the legacy that touched him deeply, rather than the material aspect of the gift itself.
The meeting with the Cav during the university years in Milan
Dell’Utri, born in Palermo on 11 September 1941, found his fortune in Milan. After completing his studies at a classical high school in the Sicilian capital, he continued his education in the Milanese city, where he graduated in law. As mentioned, it was during his university career that he had the opportunity to meet Berlusconi. “A friend from Palermo who had studied in Milan” – he said – “gave me his number before I left for university. He told me ‘he’s a bit fizzy, but good’. And when I met him , I immediately thought he was a phenomenon. He invited me to dinner at his house”. And so, in 1964, at the age of 23, Dell’Utri began working as the future entrepreneur’s personal secretary. During the same period, he was also manager of the Torrescalla football team, financed and sponsored by Berlusconi. This experience was the beginning of a close professional relationship between the two, which has developed over the years.
The return to Sicily at the end of the 60s
After his experience in Milan, Dell’Utri decides to move to Rome, where he takes over the direction of a sports group. Subsequently, in 1967, he returned to Palermo. During his working period at the Athletic Club Bagigalupo, he claims to have met Vittorio Mangano and Gaetano Cinà, later convicted of mafia. In the 1970s, he began working for the Cassa di Risparmio delle Provincia Siciliane in Catania. After a transfer to the Belmonte Mezzagno branch, in 1973 he was promoted to the position of general manager of Sicilcassa in Palermo, where he was in charge of agricultural credit services. This role marks another step forward in Dell’Utri’s career in the banking sector.
The return to Milan, the job for Edilnord and the appointment as CEO of Fininvest
Despite his career proceeding smoothly, Dell’Utri decides to return to Milan at the request of Berlusconi himself, thus starting to work at Edilnord, one of the first real estate companies of the entrepreneur from Brianza, and at the same time also plays the role of secretary of the Knight. During this period, he was actively involved in following the renovation of the Arcore villa. He will be the one to bring to the residence of the former Prime Minister Vittorio Mangano, known as the “stable boy” of Arcore, a controversial figure already smacked of the mafia at the time, but both the future leader of Forza Italia and Dell’Utri have always declared that they not having been aware of his criminal activities. In 1977, the manager joined the INIM company and subsequently became managing director of Bresciano Costruzioni, which however went bankrupt after a few years. In 1982 he began his career at Publitalia ’80, the advertising collection company of Fininvest, founded in 1979 by Berlusconi. In 1984 he obtained the position of managing director of the group. In 1990, on Dell’Utri’s proposal, Silvio Berlusconi Editore was founded, of which he personally took care of the production until 1993. This new initiative marks a further step forward in Dell’Utri’s career in the media and publishing.
The foundation of Forza Italia and his political career
In 1993 there is another turning point in Dell’Utri’s life. He is involved in the foundation of “Forza Italia! Association for good governance” together with other political personalities, and embarks on a political career, renouncing the position of president of Publitalia ’80. In 1996 he joined the Italian Parliament as a deputy and subsequently, in 1999, he became a European parliamentarian. After the general elections of 2001, he assumed the office of senator of the Republic. In 2013, he declared his intention to retire from the political scene, renouncing to receive the annuity starting from 2015.
The troubles with justice and the conviction for the mafia
As for Berlusconi, Dell’Utri also had to face various judicial processes (12) in the course of his life, even if between plea bargains, crime prescriptions and acquittals, he suffered only 2 definitive sentences. The first was a 7-year prison sentence for external competition in a mafia association. This sentence was issued in 2014, after a 20-year trial, due to his ties to the Cosa Nostra. Before the judge handed down a final sentence, Dell’Utri fled to Lebanon. In July 2015, he was located and arrested in a joint operation by Interpol and the Lebanese police, after the Palermo Court of Appeal had declared him a fugitive. Brought back to Italy, he served a sentence of 4 years in prison and more than 1 year under house arrest due to health problems. Also in 2015, he received his second sentence with an 8-month prison sentence for the crime of building abuse: he had built a tree house in Villa di Torno, on Lake Como, without authorization on an area subject to restrictions. Dell’Utri was also on trial for the case of the alleged State-Mafia negotiation. For this, in 2018 he was sentenced in the first instance to a 12-year prison sentence for violence or threat to the body politic of the state. However, this conviction was later overturned and ended with his acquittal in 2021. Dell’Utri’s wife, Miranda Ratti, said that her family has faced many difficulties due to the various legal proceedings that her husband has had to suffer.
The annuity from Berlusconi and the presidency of the Senate Library Foundation
After his acquittal, starting in May 2021, Silvio Berlusconi agreed to pay Marcello Dell’Utri an “annuity” of 30,000 euros a month. As an explanation for such an act of generosity, Dell’Utri said he helped create a financial and political empire for the former prime minister, not failing to underline that he should have received even more. Currently, the former politician holds the position of president of the Fondazione Biblioteca di via Senato and has founded the Circolo Dell’Utri, named after himself. In recent years, he has devoted himself to other activities. In 2007, he received the artistic direction of the Teatro Lirico in Milan, thus demonstrating his interest in the field of art and entertainment. Furthermore, again in 2007, he joined the board of directors of the E Polis publishing group, also becoming president of the advertising agency, Publiepolis spa. In February 2008, he irrevocably resigned from both positions.