Edgar Bronfman Senior  Letter 05  07-Jun-2000  Bringing the Seagram Holocaust to Ukraine
"In the face of flat or falling consumption in the developed countries, these companies are moving aggressively to promote consumption of their products in the developing and post-communist areas of the world." David H. Jernigan

June 07, 2000
Edgar M. Bronfman
The Seagram Company, Ltd.
1430 Peel Street
Montreal, Quebec H3A 1S9

Edgar M. Bronfman:

Bringing the Alcohol Holocaust
to the developing and post-communist world

In my letters to you of 31-Mar-2000 and 07-Apr-2000, I argued that the Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL) attributable to alcohol consumption is so vast as to dwarf the same statistic attributable to other causes, as for example the YPLL attributable to the Jewish Holocaust.  Among my conclusions was that such a large YPLL justifies use of the expression "Alcohol Holocaust."

In the present letter, I bring to your attention the following further conclusions from a study on alcohol consumption (concentrating mainly on the countries of Malaysia, Estonia, and Zimbabwe) which reveals an ongoing broad conspiracy to bring the Alcohol Holocaust to the developing and post-communist world:

  • Traditional societies controlled alcohol use, separating it from daily life by association with ritual, celebration, and time out from usual responsibilities.

  • The organization of trade in alcohol worldwide has changed.  At the local level, traditional alcohol supplies and suppliers coexist and compete with global alcohol producers.

  • On the global level, the alcohol trade is dominated by a few very profitable and very large companies.

  • In the face of flat or falling consumption in the developed countries, these companies are moving aggressively to promote consumption of their products in the developing and post-communist areas of the world.

  • In promoting consumption of their products, they promote the image of alcohol in general, as the forbidden fruit that brings pleasure [...], the means of friendship and personal success [...], and an acceptable beverage for everyone, including groups like the women in Estonia who drink less than their male counterparts.

  • The companies are thirsting for new markets, and dependent on marketing: they rely on marketing to establish the identity of and loyalty to their brands, which [...] are otherwise little different from each other.

  • The purpose of the companies' marketing is to drive up consumption of their alcoholic beverage products.  Industry executives in developing and post-communist markets make little effort to pretend that their aim is anything other than selling as much alcohol as possible.

  • In marketing, the companies teach drinkers how to drink their products, transplanting cultural images and drinking styles foreign and at times offensive to the countries in which they operate.

  • The companies market their products to drinkers whom they know are addicted, to young people and to the poor.

  • In emerging markets, the companies use marketing techniques banned in the rich countries, extracting profit while leaving behind a raft of alcohol-related problems.

  • As the case studies have shown, countries exercising little control over the supply of alcohol such as Zimbabwe and Estonia are suffering rising alcohol problems at the same time that national governments and statistics understate their importance.

  • In all three countries, alcohol problems are significant but not measured and not considered priorities for national action.

  • This failure to measure and monitor alcohol problems leaves governments placing undue priority on the revenues to be gained from alcohol sales without a clear view of the social and economic costs incurred.

  • In all three countries transnational alcohol producers are present.  [...]

  • Marketing of alcohol occurs in all three countries with little regard for health or safety.  Industry executives openly recognize that heavy drinkers, those who use alcohol primarily as a drug for intoxication and are at high risk for serious alcohol problems, are their best customers and market to them.

  • Free trade in alcohol has led and is leading to reduced competition and high profits for global alcohol producers, as they carve out spheres of influence where they hold monopolistic or oligopolistic control, using the high costs of marketing as an efective barrier to entry.

  • Too often in these emerging markets, the rhetoric of free trade and open markets justifies easy and ubiquitous availability of alcohol.

David H. Jernigan, Thirsting for markets: The global impact of corporate alcohol, The Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems, 1997, pp. 73-74.

Bringing the Seagram Holocaust
to Ukraine

Among my other conclusions in my earlier correspondence to you has been that the Seagram contribution to the Alcohol Holocaust has been substantial enough to justify use of the expression "Seagram Holocaust."  The question I would like to raise now is whether you are in the process of executing a plan to carry the Seagram Holocaust to Ukraine.  Below, I present three pieces of evidence to suggest that you might be:

Exhibit one: Seagram statement of intent

In the following excerpt, we discover reason to believe two things:

(1) That the Alcohol Holocaust being exported to the developing and post-communist world enjoys the full, and perhaps leading, participation of Seagram.

(2) That Seagram promotion of its products has been unprincipled, and that Seagram has positioned itself to use sinister techniques of mass communication to expand the Seagram Holocaust.


The third sentence in Seagram's 1996 Annual Report reads: "Our single biggest opportunity is global expansion."  The House of Seagram added new wings in recent years.  The entertainment giant MCA (parent of Universal Studios) was annexed in 1995, after Seagram sold its interest in DuPont for a $3.6 billion gain.  The company now ranks 496th in Fortune's global 500 largest companies.  Its wealth rests on its spirits holdings, which the Annual Report dubs "a relatively predictable cash generator."  Revenue from spirits in 1994-95 exceeded $5 billion, 52 percent of total income, while profits were a tidy $763 million.

Seagram products are available in 150 countries.  Twenty percent of its spirits sales are duty-free.  [...]

In the past two years, Seagram bought a huge entertainment company and broke the US distillers' voluntary ban on advertising on television.  It is now well-positioned to exploit what Hollywood calls "synergy" to make its brands as well known as Hollywood itself.  This could occur through the placement of its alcohol brands on Universal's movies or marketing them at Universal's family-oriented theme parks, as Anheuser-Busch did when it bought San Diego's Sea World amusement park.
David H. Jernigan, Thirsting for markets: The global impact of corporate alcohol, The Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems, 1997, pp. 22-23.

Exhibit two: Photograph of the Seagram beachhead in Kiev

From this photograph being taken in 1994, we infer that Seagram was among the first Western corporations to enter Ukraine following Ukrainian independence in 1991.  From this Seagram store being posh, we infer that Seagram is confident of high returns from its investment in Ukraine.  From this store being in one of the prime locations in Kiev, we infer that Seagram paid top doller for it, and thus that its marketing is not lacking in boldness or in funding.

Exhibit three: Letter to the editor

From the following letter, we infer that the Seagram penetration of Ukraine has been widely noted, and has not been welcomed by all:

Re: Seagram's plan for Ukraine

Ukrainian Weekly  13-Aug-1994

Dear Editor:

It is well-known that alcohol is wide spread in our fatherland, being a serious enemy of the Ukrainian people.

Marta Kolomayets in her article (January 30) informs us about the invasion of Ukraine by more alcohol from abroad.  Ukraine is becoming a "part of Seagram's global strategy."  Seagram introduces alcoholic "products ... expensive but worth every penny."  Is vodka worth more than the precious health that it is able to destroy?

The luxurious Seagram's store, loaded with alcohol bottles, is in the city center of the Ukrainian capital.  Next door is located the "almost always empty-shelved Produckty food store" with "customers who have been waiting their turn for hours."  Would it not be better and more humanitarian for the Bronfmans to fill those empty shelves with food for hungry people instead of offering them miniature bottles of alcohol delicacies?

It is deserving of punishment to employ as promoters of vodka "younger people, straight out of school," who should be protected from contact with alcohol.

And now we have to respond to the question from Mr. Kish: "Who knows more about vodka than Ukrainians?"  If we have no competition in this regard shall we be proud or ashamed of it?  Are the Ukrainian people really champions in drinking?

N. A. Hruszkewycz, M.D.


From a perusal of the evidence above, two categories of questions inevitably arise:

Question category one: Seagram Holocaust in Ukraine

Have Seagram statisticians calculated the Years of Potential Life Lost attributable to the consumption of Seagram products in Ukraine for the years since Seagram entered Ukraine, and have they projected this YPLL forward into future years?  How long do Seagram statisticians estimate that it will take for the YPLL from the Seagram Holocaust in Ukraine to equal the YPLL from the Jewish Holocaust during World War II?  I do not mean to suggest by this question that such an equality will be realized soon it could conceivably take years if not decades but that the equality will be achieved eventually is indubitable, and having an estimate of the date of that equality would be helpful in evaluating the Seagram presence in Ukraine.

And beyond this, have Seagram statisticians calculated the cost in dollars to the Ukrainian economy of Seagram-generated premature death, disease, accidents, crime, violence, absenteeism, loss of productivity, broken homes, brain damage not only to the drinker but to the unborn, and so on?

Seagram releasing such statistics for publication would go a long way toward demonstrating that Seagram deserved some credit for social responsibility, and that it felt some regret that in order to maximize profits it needed to leave behind a swath of destruction.

Question category two: Bronfman incitement of anti-Semitism

In the event that you find yourself unable to present a convincing defense of the Seagram entry into Ukraine, do you not think it inevitable that the Ukrainian people will feel some repugnance toward you and toward Seagram?  And given that you are not only Chairman of Seagram, but are simultaneously head of the World Jewish Congress, and as you also play a leading role in Jewish affairs, and as you have even been dubbed (whether in jest or not) "King of the Jews," do you not think it inevitable that that repugnance against you personally will to some degree diffuse to Jews collectively, such that it may be hypothesized that your dedication to making a profit through harming others constitutes a factor in the creation of the sentiment that goes under the name of "anti-Semitism"?

Just as it was inevitable that the image of an "Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka" would sully the image of all Ukrainians (though Ukrainians today take comfort from that image having proven to be fictional), isn't it inevitable that the image of "Edgar the Terrible of Seagram" must sully the image of all Jews (especially as this image is only too real)?

Lubomyr Prytulak