Mediaset executive: Berlusconi had no role in running company
A top executive for the media company at the center of Silvio Berlusconi's tax fraud conviction said the billionaire politician did not play any role in running the company.
In an exclusive interview, Mediaset CFO Marco Giordani said, "The relationship between the company and Mr. Berlusconi is a normal relationship between a company and its shareholder."
Italy's supreme court upheld a jail sentence Thursday for Berlusconi for his conviction over the fraudulent purchase of broadcasting rights by Mediaset.
Throughout court proceedings, Berlusconi has maintained that his participation in his media empire's business dealings ended when he entered politics 20 years ago.
Berlusconi founded Mediaset, Italy's largest commercial broadcaster, in the 1970s. The company went public in 1996 and Berlusconi remains its major shareholder, holding 41.3 percent of shares.
"The company is trying to maximize the value for the shareholding structure we have, including the main shareholder [Berlusconi]," Giordani said.
He added that while the tax fraud allegations were obviously significant for Berlusconi, they were unimportant for Mediaset.
"We hope that the downturn has been finished, that is the really important information we need to have. As far as the rest, clearly it is part of Italian life, but it is not part of Mediaset company life," he said.
Berlusconi, who has served as Italy's prime minister three times and also owns soccer team AC Milan, has an extensive history of criminal allegations and court appearances for charges including collusion with organized crime, corruption and bribery.
(Read more: SilvioBerlusconi's 'Greatest' Hits)
Mediaset's close tie to Berlusconi has long been criticized for both threatening the freedom of the press and resulting in undue political influence.
However, Giordani denied that the company, which also owns Mediaset Espana Comunicacion, the biggest television network in Spain, wielded unwarranted political clout.
"We try to explain to the market that the two things are completely separate... We are structured in a way to run the company professionally. We are full of high-quality professionals and that is how we make the difference. All the rest is things that appear in the newspaper, and are not really so important for company life," he said.
Mediaset shares closed at around 3.29 euros ($4.37) on the Borsa Italiana, up 2.50 percent on the day, after peaking at 3.37 ($4.47) euros.