Lifestyles of the Rich and Perverted
By Shadow State
The website Boozebusiness.com gives a fascinating insight into the inner workings of that business and naturally enough it looks at Seagrams.
In one particularly interesting story A Seagram Story of Yesterday and Today, readers get a pretty good glimpse at life as a Bronfman.
What will follow are some of the main points from the article, written by author Arthur Shapiro.
But first a word about Shapiro himself.
He joined the Seagram Spirits and Wine Company in 1986 as VP Marketing Research. He was in marketing and assigned in the US and globally including VP New Products, SVP Marketing Asia/Pacific/Global Duty Free, Global Head of Marketing Services and EVP Marketing for the Americas. His job at Seagram was high profile and he was chosen to the Ad Age Power 50 and Marketing 100.
He spent 14 years at Seagram, nine of them as head of US marketing. He led the effort by Seagram to end the voluntary ban on broadcast advertising in 1993.
Seagram closed in 2002 and he continued as a marketing consultant and his clients included Jose Cuervo International (the brand owners), Brown Forman, Pernod, Patron, Beam Global, Cape Wine Classics and others in startup modes.
So here is his story. It was published on July 31, 2018, just days after Bronfman was arrested and charged with racketeering, identity theft money laundering, and other crimes connected with her role in Nxivm.
After reciting a little about her charges, Shapiro writes about the fact that Clare and her sister are the daughters of Rita Webb, AKA Georgiana, “the daughter of an English pub owner” and that “after their parents’ divorce (they were divorced twice), she and her sister lived in England.”
Shapiro did not know Clare and he writes, “I didn’t know her but knew how much her father Edgar M. Bronfman (Edgar Sr) cared about her. I recall a phone call from his office with the instruction for us to sponsor equestrian events inasmuch as she was a world-class rider and competitor. Believe me, there weren’t any brands for whom this made any sense at all. So, with a stretch of the strategy and an intense desire to keep my job, Crown Royal was selected.”
The Company Airplane
Edgar traveled often to and from London in the mid -980s to visit his daughters. Clare was born in 1979 and Sara was born in 1976, so they were quite young.
But clever Edgar when he took the company plane realized that in order to take the tax deduction he had to take a Seagram’s employee with him.
“The Bronfmans flew on the Gulfstream IV whenever they chose, but wanted traveling employees when possible.”
One day, Shapiro got an email from an ex-Seagram friend [he gets many from ex Seagram’s employees’ this time it was Tony Rodriguez, who joined Seagram in the early 1980s and held senior positions in business strategy and finance.
Tony told this story:
“One of my first business trips around 1985, as Budget Dept. bean counter, was to Seagram’s European HQ in London (where I would eventually work as CFO for 3 years). On one particular trip and at the last minute, they (Seagram Travel Department) canceled my Pan Am flight reservations because Mr. Edgar wanted a ‘mule’ to be his excuse for a company-paid corporate jet flight with his family, including wife and two daughters, to London. What ensued was a very uncomfortable cross-Atlantic flight…”
Shapiro adds, a “trip on the Gulfstream was a wonderful way to fly, [but] it was not without its own special peril. Especially when traveling with Edgar Sr, one was often cautioned to control the alcohol intake and to avoid career-ending conversations when Mr. Bronfman had been, ahem, over-served…. on this trip, the booze flowed, especially the Sandeman’s Port. Tony was invited to join the meal aboard the plane and to join in the booze and conversation.
“There were seven passengers on the flight — Edgar Sr, Georgiana, a British friend of Edgar’s, the Seagram doctor, Tony, and the daughters. They all had lunch (except for the children) and fit nicely around a table on the plane.”
Sara would have been nine and Clare 6 years old.
The Seagram Doctor
Shapiro continues, “Seagram had a … fully equipped medical office in the NYC headquarters with a full-time doctor and a few nurses. The physician was …. part pedophile and part poster child for #MeToo, but his interest was men. Let’s call him Dr. G., since many of us referred to him as Dr. Goldfinger.
“One Seagram friend told me recently that if he went to the medical office for a Band-Aid for a paper cut, the doc would tell him to drop his pants.”
Tony was in his late 20s and found himself in a trans-Atlantic flight sitting next to Dr. G. who kept trying to stroke his thigh during the meal.
“Knowing what was happening, Edgar engaged Tony in conversation:
Nigel, [a British friend of Edgar’s]: Your name is Rodriguez, where is your family from?
Nigel: Ah, I love Spain… I often go grouse hunting on the Costa Del Sol. Have you ever been there? Did your family ever shoot grouse?
Tony: No sir. My family were peasant farmers and didn’t partake in such activities.
Edgar Sr: Have you ever gone grouse hunting when you were growing up? Where did you grow up, anyway?
Tony: No sir, I never went grouse hunting. I grew up in Newark… there were no grouse. But, there were lots of pigeons we shot with BB guns.
Nigel: Well then, tell me, us — what sports did you play in New Ark?
Tony: Street games…
Nigel: Such as…?
Tony: Well, stickball for one. It’s like baseball except, among other things, for a bat we used our mother’s cut off broom.
Edgar: That’s hysterical. Tell me, Nigel, have you ever played with your mother’s broom?
Nigel: I can’t say that I have.
Shapiro wrote a book entitled Inside the Bottle.
Here is a story from his book about where to sit on the Seagram’s plane when an employee traveled on it.
It is a great story about the arrogance of Edgar Bronfman, which it seems he handed down to his daughters.
Where to sit when Edgar Bronfman was on board his private plane?
“The protocol on where to sit on the company plane was well known. The owner, either Edgar Sr. or Edgar Jr., had the last seat on the right as you faced the rear of the plane (aft). If they weren’t on it, the most senior executive had that seat. Other plush seats were taken by rank, and the couches (we’re talking Gulfstream jets), were left to the more junior or lower-ranking execs.
“As the story goes, while waiting for one of the Bronfmans to board the plane, a company president was talking to a colleague while seated in the Bronfman seat, when suddenly Bronfman appeared. Startled, the executive shot up, moved away, and said, ‘Sorry Mr. Bronfman, here’s your seat.’ To which the Bronfman in question replied, ‘They’re all my seats.’
So what was it like growing up a Bronfman, Canada’s Royal Family of Booze? Well, it is evident from this story that you don’t have to endure long security lines at the airport.
When Clare Bronfman flew to Vancouver in 2017 to file bogus charges with the Vancouver Police and the Canadian Royal Mounties accusing Sarah Edmondson of theft, Clare flew on a private plane chartered for her.