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Who is Italy's 'Super Mario' Monti?

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 9:34 PM EST, Sun November 13, 2011
Mario Monti has been nominated as a successor to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Mario Monti has been nominated as a successor to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mario Monti has been nominated to succeed Silvio Berlusconi as prime minister
  • He recently was made a "senator for life" by Italy's president
  • Monti was a European commissioner, part of rulings challenging Microsoft and GE
  • He has advised governments, founded a think tank and now leads an Italian university

(CNN) -- Cool, calm and collected, Mario Monti could not be more different from Italy's flamboyant former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The former European commissioner on Sunday was nominated to succeed Berlusconi.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano announced Wednesday that he had nominated Monti as a "senator for life," a title bestowed on those who have held distinguished roles, heightening speculation about his candidacy.

If he becomes prime minister, Monti could be expected to bring a distinctly different approach to governing than Italy has experienced over the past three years.

While the hot-blooded Berlusconi was for many years a master of forming political alliances, Monti is known for his achievements as a "Eurocrat," at the heart of Europe's institutions.

Mario Monti named Italian Prime Minister

Dubbed Super Mario for his work in international finance, he served as a leading European Commission member for a decade -- including as commissioner for its financial services, market and taxation committee between 1995 and 1999 and as head of its competition committee from 1999 to 2004.

In the latter role, Monti gained prominence for his part in blocking a merger between U.S. firms Honeywell International and General Electric, thought to be a move that highlighted Europe's newfound regulatory clout.

He also tangled with U.S. computing giant Microsoft, ruling in 2004 that it had broken EU competition law by having "abused its virtual monopoly power over the PC desktop in Europe." Microsoft was hit with a huge fine and ordered to share key information with its rivals.

While such moves made headlines, Monti's interactions in business are still a stark contrast to that of Berlusconi.

Besides being active in politics, the outgoing prime minister is also a business personality as the owner of media and financial companies, as well as the legendary football club A.C. Milan.

But beyond advisory roles with investment firm Goldman Sachs and Coca-Cola, Monti's resume suggests he's as much a creature of academics and policy-making as business.

Born in 1943 in the town of Varese in northern Italy's Lombardy region, Monti earned an economics and business degree from Milan's Bocconi University. He then did his post-graduate studies at Yale University, before returning to Europe.

In 2005, shortly after leaving the European Commission, according to a bio on that international organization's website, Monti launched Bruegel, a Brussels-based think tank focused on economic issues.

The next few years saw Monti remain busy in international affairs. That includes being appointed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to a panel to look at promoting French economic growth, as well as helping broker a 2008 electricity-sharing agreement between France and Spain.

All the while, he has appeared to remain closely linked to his alma mater, Bocconi. Holding the position rector from 1989 to 1994, the university notes that Monti is president of the school.

CNN's Nina Dos Santos contributed to this report.

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