Samuel Bronfman

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Person.png Samuel BronfmanRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(businessman, smuggler)
Photo of bronfman sr.jpg
BornFebruary 27, 1889
Bessarabia, Russian Empire
DiedJuly 10, 1971 (Age 82)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
NationalityCanadian
ReligionJewish
Children • Aileen Mindel Bronfman de Gunzburg
• Phyllis Lambert
• Edgar Bronfman Sr.
• Charles Rosner Bronfman
RelativesClare Bronfman
SpouseSaidye Rosner Bronfman
Liquor producer who made it big during the US Prohibition. Kept mobster ties afterwards, even while going respectable as a businessman

Samuel Bronfman was a Canadian businessman who made his fortune during the Prohibition. He founded the whiskey producer Seagram, which later became one of the biggest legitimate alcohol businesses in the world. He is a member of the Bronfman family.

Early Life

Samuel Bronfman was born in Bessarabia, then part of the Russian Empire (present-day Moldova), one of eight children of Mindel and Yechiel Bronfman. He and his parents were both Jewish refugees of Czarist Russia's anti-Semitic pogroms,[1] who emigrated to Wapella, Saskatchewan. They soon moved to Brandon, Manitoba. A wealthy family, they were accompanied by their rabbi and two servants.

In 1903, the family bought a hotel business, and Samuel, noting that much of the profit was in alcoholic beverages, set up shop as a liquor distributor.

Career

He founded the Distillers Corporation in Montreal in 1924, specializing in cheap whisky, and concurrently taking advantage of the U.S. prohibition on alcoholic beverages. The Bronfmans sold liquor to the northern cities of the U.S. such as Boston, New York City and Chicago during the Prohibition era, while operating from the perimeters of Montreal, Quebec where alcohol production was legal.[2]

His business partners included also Al Capone in Chicago and Arnold Rothstein in New York, who bought huge batches from Bronfman and illegally distributed the liquor. Other partners included Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Moe Dalitz, Abner “Longy” Zwillman and Meyer Lansky.[3]

In 1928 Bronfman bought a small distillery from Joseph E. Seagram & Sons along with the naming rights from the Seagrams heirs. Prohibition was lifted in 1933 and the sometimes inferior export product was replaced by better quality whiskey.

The company flourished and brought the Bronfman family a fortune that grew practically regardless of the economic situation. Until his death in 1971, Samuel Bronfman ran Seagram, which was then taken over by his son Edgar Bronfman, who diversified into other industries (entertainment and media).

The Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky, once quipped “Sam Bronfman smuggled enough whisky across the Canadian border that Lake Erie is known as “Jewish Lake”.[4]

Canadian journalist Terence Robertson, who was writing a biography of Bronfman, died in 1970 under mysterious circumstances soon after warning his colleagues that he had uncovered unsavory information about the Bronfman family.[5]



References