Bronfman, Edgar Miles

views updated


BRONFMAN, EDGAR MILES (1929– ), industrialist and Jewish leader. Bronfman was born in Montreal to Saidye and Samuel *Bronfman. He attended Trinity College in Port Hope, Ontario; Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts; and graduated with a bachelor's degree from McGill University in Montreal in 1951. In 1953 he joined Distillers Corp. Seagram Ltd. in Canada (renamed the Seagram Company Ltd. in 1975). In 1955 Bronfman moved to New York, where he became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. In 1957 he became president of the U.S. subsidiary of Seagram and undertook the construction of a new corporate headquarters, the Seagram Building, a New York City landmark skyscraper. After his father's death in 1971 Bronfman assumed complete control of the firm, becoming chairman and chief executive officer of the Seagram Company Ltd., the Canadian parent firm, and of Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc., the U.S. subsidiary, in 1975. Under his leadership the Seagram empire grew and diversified, from natural gas and oil holdings in Asia and Europe to a significant interest in the international chemical firm E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company. In 1995 Bronfman acquired Universal, one of Hollywood's major studios. In 1998 he purchased the Poly Gram nv record company. In 1994 he relinquished the position of chief executive officer to his son, Edgar Bronfman, Jr. The senior Edgar Bronfman served as chairman of the Seagram Company Ltd. until its merger under Vivendi Universal in 2000.

Bronfman had a notable career as a Jewish communal leader and philanthropist. Foremost among his positions is that of president (from 1981) of the *World Jewish Congress, an association of Jewish representative organizations in more than 80 countries. Bronfman took that organization through a period of consolidation and assumed an active role on behalf of Jewish communities and causes in many parts of the world. He also held significant positions with many other Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, such as the International Board of Governors of Hillel, the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, the adl, and the National Urban League.

Bronfman wrote three books: The Making of a Jew (1996), Good Spirits: The Making of a Businessman (1998), and The Third Act: Reinventing Yourself after Retirement (2002). In 1999 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton, the highest civilian honor in the U.S.

[Mark Friedman /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

About this article

Bronfman, Edgar Miles

Updated About content Print Article