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David Plotz  25-Apr-1998  Overrated father, misunderstood son
"Thanks to his relentless and ongoing pursuit of Nazi-loving Swiss bankers, admirers have dubbed him, only half-jokingly, the 'King of the Jews.'" David Plotz
Below is the beginning only of an article on the Edgar Bronfmans.  The entire article can be accessed at the Slate Archives.
Edgar Bronfman, Edgar Bronfman
Overrated father, misunderstood son.

By David Plotz
David Plotz is Slate's Washington bureau chief.
You can e-mail him at [email protected].


Posted Saturday, April 25, 1998, at 4:30 p.m. PT

The Edgar Bronfmans, senior and junior, are always great theater, and never more than in the past few weeks.  Edgar Bronfman Sr. in his role of Aged Wisdom has just published Good Spirits: The Making of a Businessman, a memoir brimming with self-congratulatory tales of his business acumen and generosity.  (When he's not patting himself on the back, he has no trouble finding people to do it for him.  Thanks to his relentless and ongoing pursuit of Nazi-loving Swiss bankers, admirers have dubbed him, only half-jokingly, the "King of the Jews.")

Edgar Bronfman Jr. (Youthful Folly), meanwhile, has been busy running Seagram the Bronfman-managed liquor conglomerate into the ground.  Three years ago, he liquidated Seagram's $9 billion stake in DuPont to buy the entertainment giant MCA (now Universal).  April has been a horrific month for Universal.  Three of its top executives were sacked last week.  It has released flop after flop (The Jackal, Primary Colors, Mercury Rising), and there is no relief on the horizon: Universal doesn't have a summer blockbuster to compete with Godzilla and Armageddon.  Edgar Jr. keeps promising that Universal will turn fabulous profits in the next few years, but no one is buying.  Hollywood is overflowing with rumors that someone anyone is planning to buy Universal away from Seagram and run it properly.  Seagram stock, dragged down by Universal, is stagnating through the biggest bull market in history.  (DuPont stock, on the other hand, has more than doubled in value since Edgar Jr. sold Seagram's DuPont interest: This has cost Seagram's shareholders more than $9 billion.)

Usually a few billion dollars in the bank inoculates you against bad press, but Edgar Jr. has been designated the movie industry's official idiot a 42-year-old child who's squandering his family (and his shareholders') fortune on romantic Tinseltown fantasies.  There is a feeling that any real media mogul Michael Eisner, Barry Diller, Sumner Redstone, Rupert Murdoch could eat Edgar Jr. for lunch and still have plenty of room for dessert.

A certain aura of creeping decay does surround the Bronfmans, and it is tempting to view them as a study in dynastic decline.  Sam Bronfman, the family patriarch and Edgar Sr.'s father, was an utterly implacable businessman, the Atilla of liquor.  The child of Russian Jewish immigrants, Sam bought Canadian distilleries and seedy hotels during the '20s, then cashed in on American Prohibition.  He supplied bootleggers and gangsters with booze: Meyer Lansky was a customer.  When Prohibition was lifted, Sam was one of the most powerful distillers in North America, and for the next 30 years, he bullied employees and terrorized rivals to make Seagram an international liquor powerhouse.

[...]


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