Berlusconi's daughter denies she will lead Italy center-right

By Silvia Aloisi

MILAN (Reuters) - Silvio Berlusconi's oldest daughter Marina, head of his $6.6 billion business empire, on Tuesday flatly dismissed growing speculation that she would replace her father as leader of Italy's center-right after his conviction for tax fraud.

Talk that she would take over the leadership intensified after the supreme court upheld his conviction on August1, confirming he faces a year's house arrest or community service.

The four-times prime minister, who has dominated Italian politics for the past 20 years, is also likely to be ejected from the Senate in the autumn and be unable to stand as an electoral candidate.

"I must reiterate once again, and categorically, that I never considered entering politics," the 47-year-old Marina said in a statement.

She said she hoped the denial would put paid to any speculation about "an intention I never entertained and do not entertain."

Berlusconi's daughter had denied any political ambition several times before and Berlusconi loyalists insist he will remain firmly in charge of his People of Freedom (PDL) party.

But that has done little to curb speculation that she could become at least a figurehead for the PDL during Berlusconi's enforced absence, with even family newspaper Il Giornale running front-page articles about her possible role.

Some Italian media have noted that Berlusconi himself denied any interest in joining the political fray months before storming to his first election victory in 1994.

Listed among the world's most powerful women by U.S. business magazine Forbes, Marina Berlusconi sits at the helm of Fininvest, a holding company that controls broadcaster Mediaset, publishing house Mondadori and soccer club AC Milan. It also has a big stake in asset manager Mediolanum.

(Reporting by Silvia Aloisi; editing by Barry Moody)