Charles Bronfman

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Charles Bronfman
Born Charles Rosner Bronfman
(1931-06-27) June 27, 1931 (age 89)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Nationality Canadian / American
Dual citizenship
(February 2013)
Alma mater McGill University
Occupation Businessman
Net worth Increase$2.1 billion (September 2014)[1]
Spouse(s) --Barbara Baerwald
(1961-1982; divorced)
--Andrea "Andy" Brett Morrison
(1982-2006; her death)
--Bonita "Bonnie" Roche
--Rita Mayo
Children with Baerwald:
--Stephen Bronfman
--Ellen Bronfman Hauptman
--Jeremy Cohen
--Pippa Cohen
--Tony Cohen
Parent(s) Samuel Bronfman
Saidye Rosner Bronfman
Relatives Minda de Gunzberg (sister)
Phyllis Lambert (sister)
Edgar Bronfman, Sr. (brother)

Charles Bronfman, PC CC (born June 27, 1931) is a Canadian / American businessman and philanthropist and is a member of the Canadian Jewish Bronfman family. With an estimated net worth of $2 billion (as of 2013), Bronfman was ranked by Forbes as the 14th wealthiest Canadian and 736th in the world.[1]


Bronfman was born in Montreal. He is the son of Samuel Bronfman and Saidye Rosner Bronfman. He has two older sisters, the art patron Baroness Aileen "Minda" Bronfman de Gunzberg, and architecture expert and developer Phyllis Lambert. His older brother, Edgar Bronfman, Sr., was his fellow Co-Chair of Seagrams. Edgar Bronfman, Jr. is Edgar's son. He was educated at Selwyn House School in Montreal, Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario, and McGill University. Bronfman said he is Canadian in his heart but wanted to get dual citizenship in order to vote in the United States.[2]


Bronfman held various positions in the family's liquor empire, Seagrams, from 1951 to 2000. In 1951 Bronfman’s father Samuel Bronfman gave Charles a 33% ownership stake in Cemp Investments, a holding company for him and his 3 siblings which controlled the family’s coporate empire. Under the leadership of Charles and brother Edgar, it controlled billions of dollars in liquor, real estate, oil and gas, and chemical companies. [3]

Bronfman and his brother, Edgar, inherited the Seagram spirits empire in 1971 after the death of their father, Sam Bronfman. Bronfman is a former Co-Chairman of the Seagram Company Ltd. On the demise of the company: “It was a disaster, it is a disaster, it will be a disaster,” he says. “It was a family tragedy.” [2][4]

Bronfman was also well known for his forays into professional sports. He was majority owner of the Montreal Expos franchise in Major League Baseball from the team's formation in 1968 until 1990. In 1982, a day after the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League collapsed due to financial troubles, Bronfman bought their remains and used them to start a new franchise, the Montreal Concordes. This venture proved far less successful – despite later rebranding the team as the Alouettes, the team folded prior to the start of the 1987 CFL season.

Since 1986, he has served as Chairman of The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, Inc.[2] He plans to close the foundation in 2016.[5]

From November 1997 until July 2002, Bronfman was the Chairman of the Board of Koor Industries Ltd., one of Israel's largest investment holding companies. He is the co-chairman of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. From 1999 to 2001, Bronfman was the first Chairman of the United Jewish Communities, the merged North American organization comprising United Jewish Appeal, the Council of Jewish Federations and United Israel Appeal.

In April 2013, Bronfman was one of 100 prominent American Jews who sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him to “work closely” with Secretary of State John Kerry “to devise pragmatic initiatives, consistent with Israel’s security needs, which would represent Israel’s readiness to make painful territorial sacrifices for the sake of peace.”[6]


He and Michael Steinhardt co-founded Taglit Birthright, a program which provides a free, educational travel experience to Israel for young Jewish adults. Bronfman is one of its principal donors. Since 1999, the program has sent more than 340,000 young Jews from around the world on a 10-day free trip to Israel.[2]

Bronfman is Chairman of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies Inc., a family of charitable foundations operating in Israel, the U.S., and Canada. Bronfman is also responsible for The Charles Bronfman Prize, honoring individuals for their humanitarian contributions. The first winner was Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation founder Jay Feinberg. He also founded the Karev Foundation, which runs educational enrichment classes in outlying areas in collaboration with the Education Ministry in Israel.[7][8]

Bronfman was a founding co-chairman of Historica, producers of the Heritage Minutes series of television shorts. It was at an early meeting of this foundation (originally the CAB Foundation) that he asked the members, "If television can use 30 seconds or 60 seconds to persuade people that Cadillacs or cornflakes are interesting, couldn't we also use that short piece of time to persuade Canadians that their history is interesting? You tell me how to do it, and I'll fund it." It was out of that discussion that the Heritage Minutes were conceived, piloted, distributed through cinemas and broadcasters across the country, and then confirmed as a major contribution of the Foundation — which a few years later became Historica, recently merged with the Dominion Institute.

Bronfman joined the Giving Pledge, an initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.[1][5]

Personal life

Bronfman has been married four times:

  • Barbara Baerwald. Married 1961,[9] divorced 1982.[10] They had two children.[11]
  • Andrea "Andy" Brett Morrison (1945–2006). In 1982, he married Morrison; she died in 2006 after being struck by a taxi when she went out to walk her dog.[14] She has three children from a previous marriage to Canadian manufacturer David Cohen, grandson of Lyon Cohen and cousin of singer Leonard Cohen: Jeremy Cohen, Pippa Cohen, and Tony Cohen.[15]
  • Bonita "Bonnie" Roche. In 2008, married Roche, an architect, in New York City. They divorced in 2011, on amicable terms, celebrating their divorce with a lavish "divorce party."[16]
  • Rita Mayo. They married in 2012.[2]

Awards and honours

Works or publications


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "The World's Billionaires: Charles Bronfman". Forbes Magazine. Retrieved 2014. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Slater, Joanna (April 5, 2013). "The Lunch: Charles Bronfman opens up about Seagram's demise: 'It is a disaster'". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 25 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Nicolas Faith, The Bronfmans: The Rise and Fall of the House of Seagram. St. Martin's Griffin, 2007. ISBN 978-0312332204. Retrieved 2015-04-22
  4. "The making of Lunch with Charles Bronfman" (video). The Globe and Mail. April 5, 2013. Retrieved 25 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Charles Bronfman Letter" (PDF). The Giving Pledge. Retrieved 25 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Hareetz: "100 American Jewish leaders urge Netanyahu to show readiness to make 'painful territorial sacrifices'" by Chemi Shalev April 3, 2013
  7. "About". Karev Foundation. Retrieved 25 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Sadeh, Shuki (17 March 2013). "How foreign donors reshaped Israel: A who's who". Haaretz. Retrieved 30 November 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Charles Bronfman". The Charles Bronfman Prize. Retrieved 25 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Forbes: "The Other Bronfman" by Monte Burke August 19, 2006
  13. Forbes: "Major League Soccer's Billionaire Owners" by Charles Smith November 20, 2013
  14. Fox, Margalit (January 25, 2006). "Andrea M. Bronfman, 60, an Internationally Noted Philanthropist, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Sign on San Diego: "Andrea Morrison Bronfman; active in Jewish causes; 60" By Margalit Fox January 28, 2006
  16. Fabrikant, Geraldine (May 13, 2011). "Divorce, in Style". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Office of the Governor General of Canada. Order of Canada citation. Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 24 May 2010

External links