Edgar Bronfman Sr. and the Liquor Business

On this day, June 20 in the year 1929, the man who built the once world’s largest liquor company was born in Montreal, Canada. His name was Edgar M. Bronfman Sr., the heir of a liquor fortune.

Edgar Bronfman Sr.
Edgar Bronfman Sr. (Credit: charlierose.com)

Born to a rich family, Edgar grew up in a palatial home. He was the son of Samuel Bronfman who started a distillery business in Montreal, Quebec. He had two elder sisters and a younger brother. He finished a bachelor’s degree in commerce from McGill University. After his graduation in 1951, he joined the family business which incorporated the name Seagram. He worked his way up the corporate ladder, first as an accounting clerk then product taster and moving up to head the US subsidiary in 1957. He initiated new but tax efficient business structures, launched new products, improved distribution and expanded the number of countries where Seagram’s products were sold. He oversaw the completion of the iconic Seagram’s New York Building in 1958.

Edgar’s ambition did not stop at Seagram. In 1966, his family’s investment firm bought a substantial number of shares in MGM, one of the largest movie companies in the world. In 1969, he briefly became the CEO but quickly sold his shares to Kirk Kerkorian. Later, he acquired a controlling stake of the chemical giant, Du Pont. The annual dividend from this acquisition became the source of much of his family’s wealth for many years until it was sold by his son and successor in 1994.

Edgar became the president and CEO of Seagram from 1971 to 1994. After he turnover management of the company to his son, Edgar Jr., he devoted much of his time in the World Jewish Congress where he was president since 1981. He wrote a book entitled “The Making of a Jew”.

Edgar Bronfman Sr.married five times begot 7 children, five with his first wife and two with his third wife whom he married twice. In 2013, he died at his home in New York at the age of 84. According to forbes.com, Edgar Sr. had $2.6 billion net worth in 2010.

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