Edgar W. Bronfman, Seagram chairman and philanthropist, dies at 84

Dec. 22, 2013 at 9:28 AM
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NEW YORK, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Edgar M. Bronfman, former chairman of the Seagram Co. and former president of the World Jewish Congress, has died, the family's foundation confirmed.

The 84-year-old billionaire died Saturday from natural causes at his New York home, the Samuel Bronfman Foundation said.

Bronfman inherited control of Seagram from his father Samuel, a self-made Canadian magnate who founded a distilling company in 1924 whose liquor found its way to the United States during the Prohibition era. Edgar Bronfman gave the company a more sophisticated image, in keeping with the elegant profile he maintained in New York society, the New York Times said Sunday.

Under his leadership, the company acquired Tropicana and became the largest DuPont shareholder.

As president of the World Jewish Congress from 1981 to 2007, Bronfman turned a loose federation of Jewish groups in 66 countries into a focused, confrontational organization that pressed the Soviet Union to improve living conditions for Jews and allow freer emigration, the Times said.

It goaded the U.S. Congress to expose the hidden Nazi past of Kurt Waldheim, former United Nations Secretary-General and eventual Austrian president, and successfully campaigned to force Swiss banks to make restitution of over a billion dollars to relatives of German death camp victims whose savings were deposited in Swiss banks prior to world War II, the newspaper said.

He is is survived by his fourth wife Jan Aronson; sons Samuel, Edgar Jr., Matthew and Adam; daughters Holly Bronfman Lev, Sara Igtet and Claire; his brother Charles, sister Phyllis Lambert, 24 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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