The Bronfman family gained its fortunes through the Seagram Company, an alcohol distilling company, but Edgar Jr. ("Efer" to friends) has gained his reputation by expanding and later divesting ownership of the Seagram company, as well as for pursuing more creative activities as a Broadway and film producer and songwriter.
From his early days, Bronfman's interest in the arts was apparent. He was particularly active in school theatre, an interest his parents supported by donating to construct The Ann and Edgar Bronfman Theatre during a 1967 expansion at The Collegiate School, the prestigious private school in Manhattan which Edgar Jr. attended. Edgar Jr. and his classmates created a documentary film of the school that spawned the Collegiate Film Festival, an event that gained positive press in The Los Angeles Times and The Village Voice.
In 1973, Bronfman began a songwriting career under the pseudonyms Junior Miles and Sam Roman. He often collaborated with Bruce Roberts on songs like "Whisper in the Dark", which he gave to Dionne Warwick to record in thanks for introducing him to his first wife, Sherry.
In 1982, Bronfman returned to the Seagram Company, spending three months learning the ropes before moving to London to become managing director of Seagram Europe. In 1984, Bronfman returned to New York as President of the House of Seagram, the company's U.S. marketing division. By 1994 he became the Chief Executive Officer, where he began a move away from the traditional liquor business and into entertainment.
The first step in this diversification was the widely criticized sale of Seagram's stake in DuPont. In 1981, Edgar Bronfman, Sr., had sold Seagram's stake in Conoco to DuPont, in exchange for almost 25% of the chemical giant. This stake in DuPont, by 1995, represented about 70% of Seagram's total earnings. Nevertheless, Bronfman, Jr., acting as Seagram's CEO, approached DuPont about buying back its shares, a deal that DuPont wasted no time in closing.
With the proceeds of the $9 billion sale, Bronfman, Jr., went on an expansion into the entertainment business, in music through the acquisition of Polygram, and in film entertainment through MCA and Universal Pictures. However, the new entertainment conglomerate he created had a brief life, before needing a strategic partner. Bronfman, Jr., then led Seagram into a controversial all-stock acquisition by French conglomerate Vivendi in 2000. Bronfman, Jr., became chief of the new company, Vivendi Universal, but the Seagram company effectively lost control of its entertainment businesses. Meanwhile, the beverage division—the core of Seagram's business—was acquired by Pernod Ricard and Diageo. Seagram's for all intents and purposes ceased to exist.
In December 2001, Bronfman announced he was stepping down from an executive capacity at Vivendi Universal, but remaining as vice chair of the board.
Bronfman Jr. is also a prominent philanthropist. He currently chairs the Board of Directors of Endeavor (nonprofit), an international development organization that finds and supports high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets.
Bronfman's son, who is known as Ben Brewer, is the guitar player and vocalist for the New York-based alternative rock band The Exit who have been on hiatus since the departure of Jeff Darosa, but are widely regarded as a hard-working touring group. The band has played over 500 shows in its career.
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