The Bronfman Family moved to Canada from Russia. They had made their money in the tobacco business, but found that the Canadian climate wasn’t conducive to growing tobacco. In 1924, they built a distillery in LaSalle, Montreal under the name of Distillers Corporation Ltd. In 1928, the Distillers Corporation acquired the stock from Joseph E. Seagram and Sons of Waterloo, Ontario. Bronfman built his business based on the appeal of brand names developed by Seagram, these included: Calvert, Dewars, and Seven Crown. His sales were boosted during the United States' experiment with prohibition. Bronfman stayed within the confines of both Canadian law where prohibition laws had been previously repealed and American law. American prohibition ended in 1933. At that time, Bronfman’s company owned a large, private stock of aged whisky. He was able to expand and establish a plant in the U.S.A. By 1948, the company’s profit was 53.7 million dollars. The company ventured into the oil and gas business during the 1950s and 1960s. By the end of 1965, the company had operations in 119 countries and their sales exceeded 1 billion dollars. The sale of whisky dropped in the 1960s, but higher end products like Crown Royal and Chivas continued to do well. Edgar Bronfman purchased stock in MGM Studios. Unfortunately, in 1970, MGM lost 25 million dollars. Edgar Bronfman had been the chairman of the studio, but at this point he resigned. In 1975, the name of the company was changed to the Seagram Company. The company continued to expand its liquor business. In 1980, its gas and oil properties in the U.S. were sold to Sun Co. Ltd. It retained its Canadian and international gas properties. In the late 1980s, Edgar Bronfman named his younger son, Edgar Jr. as his successor. Edgar Bronfman Jr. purchased 15% of Time-Warner in 1993 and 80% of MCA (now Universal Studios) which he sold in 1996 for 330 million dollars. In 1998, Bronfman announced that he would further expand his entertainment holdings by buying Polygram NV. In 2000, Edgar Bronfman announced that Seagram was being sold to the French conglomerate Vivendi. The Bronfmans retained 25% of the merged company which was called Vivendi Universal. The newly merged company didn’t work out and Vivendi Universal shares dropped from $77 to less than $25 a share. In 2003, Vivendi sold the Seagram building and auctioned off the Seagram art collection in order to pay its debts. The Seagram assets have since been acquired by other companies, such as Coca-Cola, Diageo, and Pernod Ricard.

Sources: www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com and Opening program for the Seagram Museum

Click here to view finding aid: http://dr.library.brocku.ca/bitstream/handle/10464/5218/Seagram%20Museum%20Collection%20RG%20490.pdf

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