This article originally appeared in
Italian media baron turned PM set to record CD
05/12/2002 - Updated 08:05 PM ET

By Eric J. Lyman, Special for USA TODAY

    ROME — Italy's controversial prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, is the foreign minister, the leading
    shareholder of the country's largest media company and owner of a top soccer club — and still he has
    found time to work on a new music compact disc.

    Pairing with Italian singer and songwriter Tony Renis, Berlusconi's office said the recording would be
    sold to benefit a United Nations agency, either the United Nations International Children's Fund
    (UNICEF) or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The charity
    would retain rights to the recording, officials say.

    The move is a return to the 65-year-old Berlusconi's roots. Before becoming Italy's most successful and
    wealthiest businessman and then its most powerful political figure, Berlusconi made a living as a
    crooner on cruise ships and at resorts. That's how he met Renis. They had a friendly professional rivalry
    at a resort on the island of Elba in the 1950s.

Berlusconi has come a long way since those days, building a billion-dollar conglomerate that includes publishing, advertising,
financial services and sports. He also owns three television stations, which raised concerns about conflict of interest when his
conservative coalition came into power a year ago.

Politicians across Europe were dismayed when in January he called his foreign minister, Renato Ruggiero, a "technical" functionary
who carried out the prime minister's policies. Berlusconi named himself foreign minister after Ruggiero stepped down.

People close to the prime minister say the CD will be a one-time deal.

"The prime minister started out as a singer, and he has always maintained music as a hobby," says Marco Ventura of Berlusconi's
information office. "From time to time he'll sing a few songs for friends at a party. ... (And) now he is just looking into the possibility of
doing the same thing to raise some money for a worthwhile cause."

According to local media reports, Renis will write the melodies and Berlusconi will pen and sing the lyrics. No theme has been
announced.

Even officials from the opposition who are concerned about the ongoing conflict-of-interest problem and criticize Berlusconi for
holding two top government posts have only chuckled about the CD project.

"With everything he is trying to do and everything he should do, it is not clear where he will find the time to record a musical CD," says
Giacomo Rossi, an official with L'Ulivo, one of the main opposition parties. "But if he does and it is for a good cause then there is no
problem."
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