Billionaire Zionist Edgar Bronfman dies

Edgar Bronfman, chairman of the Seagram empire, dies

Billionaire philanthropist died at his home in New York at the age of 84

4:18PM GMT 22 Dec 2013CommentsComments

Edgar Bronfman, chairman of the Seagram Company and a billionaire philanthropist, has died at his home in New York at the age of 84.

Born in Montreal, Canada, he took control of the Seagram empire from his father, Samuel Bronfman, who had founded the drinks company in 1924. He was initially put in control of Seagram’s US subsidiary, Joseph E Seagram & Sons by his father in 1953.

It was in the 1950s that Seagram shifted its headquarters to the famed Seagram Building on New York’s Park Avenue.
Mr Bronfman, the son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, later became a US citizen. He went on to expand the operations of his father’s company, buying Tropicana, and moved Seagram into the chemicals business by making it DuPont’s largest minority shareholder.

Mr Bronfman in turn handed over Seagram to his son Edgar Bronfman Jr, who became president in 1989 and chief executive in 1994 and who moved the company into the entertainment sector.

Seagram’s alcoholic drinks division was eventually acquired by Pernod Ricard and Diageo.

The businessman, who was married five times including twice to the same woman, hit the headlines in 1975 when his son Samuel was kidnapped and Mr Bronfman himself delivered more than $2m (£1.2m) in ransom. The kidnappers were subsequently arrested and convicted.

Besides his business interests, Mr Bronfman was also the long-serving president of the World Jewish Congress from 1981 until 2007.

During his tenure, the US Congress increased pressure on the then-Soviet Union to loosen emigration restrictions on Jews living there