The Bronfmans

The Rise and Fall of the House of Seagram

Nicholas Faith

Thomas Dunne Books

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The story of the Bronfman family is a fascinating and improbable saga. It is dominated by “Mr. Sam,” the single greatest figure in the history of the liquor business, the man who made drinking whiskey respectable in the United States and who in the 1950s and 1960s built Seagram into the first worldwide empire in wine and spirits.
            After Sam’s death in 1971, his oldest son, Edgar, maintained the business, though he was distracted by his matrimonial problems. Nevertheless, in the 1980s he masterminded a major coup when he translated a small investment in oil made by his father into a 25 percent stake in the mighty DuPont company.
            But in the 1990s, Edgar allowed his second son, Edgar Jr., to indulge his ambition to become a media tycoon. The stake in DuPont was sold, and the money reinvested in Universal, the film and theme-park empire. Edgar Jr. then paid more than $10 billion to buy Polygram Records and thus fulfill his fancy to be king of the world’s music business. But at the same time, he remained in charge of the liquor business, which started to stagnate—indeed, to fall apart. Then came the final disaster when the increasingly divided family sold out to Jean-Marie Messier, overreaching empire builder of Vivendi, the French conglomerate.
            But the story of this amazing family over the past century is about more than booze and business. The Bronfmans is a spectacular account that details the larger-than-life personalities and bitter rivalries that have made the family so famous and, sometimes, so infamous.

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Book Excerpts

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OneMR. SAM, NO ORDINARY MONSTERWHEN I TOLD FRIENDS THAT I HAD BEEN COMMISSIONED TO WRITE ABOUT the Bronfman family, many of them muttered about "cement galoshes" and one serious citizen--a leading investment banker--warned me that the Bronfman family would infallibly take out a contract on me. Although this has turned into something of a joke between us, I found that until recently the threat could have been very real. One of his many mistresses had rebuked Edgar, the founder's elder son, when he talked of "knee-capping" someone. He retorted simply, "No, I meant it.

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Praise for The Bronfmans

The Bronfmans is a wonderful addition to the library of family biographies, and in particular to the small shelf on the Canadian-grown Seagram whiskey empire. Splendidly written and researched—particularly on the alcoholic beverage side, of which Nicholas Faith is a distinguished expert—this book is a rollicking good story, a perceptive analysis of the Bronfmans’ stunning business success, a tribute to their hard work and acumen—and a cautionary tale about what can happen, even to the greatest.”
—Michael R. Marrus, author of Samuel Bronfman: The Life and Times of Mr. Sam
The Bronfmans is an intriguing odyssey of a fabled and star-crossed celebrity family, filled with engrossing tales of the secrets of the international booze business, backroom billion-dollar shenanigans, dilettante playboys and rakes, rediscovered Jewish heritage, and an unusual champion of human rights.”
—Selwyn Raab, bestselling author of Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires
Praise for Nicholas Faith’s Other Books
The Winemakers of Bordeaux
“Anyone wanting an introduction to this inexhaustible subject will be delighted by Mr. Faith, who knows how to tell a story with vivacity.”
—Theodore Zeldin, author of An Intimate History of Humanity
“An absorbing book.”
—Frank Prial, The New York Times
Safety in Numbers
“An interesting dossier on assorted bad judgment, chicanery, and loose practices.”
—John Kenneth Galbraith
“Investigative journalism of the highest order.”
Useful and readable tour through the dark side of Swiss banking.”

Reviews from Goodreads


About the Author

Nicholas Faith

Nicholas Faith is a distinguished veteran journalist, a former senior editor at The Economist and the London Sunday Times. He also founded and was chairman of the International Spirits Challenge, now the most prestigious event of its kind in the world. He has written twenty-three books, including The Winemakers of Bordeaux and Safety in Numbers: The Mysterious World of Swiss Banking.

Nicholas Faith


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Available Formats and Book Details

The Bronfmans
The Rise and Fall of the House of Seagram
Nicholas Faith

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
St. Martin's Press
Thomas Dunne Books
April 2007
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429904124
ISBN10: 1429904127
352 pages

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Thomas Dunne Books

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