Seagram Company Ltd. (formerly traded as Seagram's) was a Canadian multinational conglomerate formerly headquartered in Montreal, Quebec. Originally a distiller of Canadian whisky based in Waterloo, Ontario, it was once (in the 1990s) the largest owner of alcoholic beverage lines in the world.

Toward the end of its independent existence, it also controlled various entertainment and other business ventures, with its purchase of MCA Inc., whose assets included Universal Studios and its theme parks, financed through the sale of Seagram's 25% holding of chemical company DuPont, a position it acquired in 1981. Following this, the company imploded, with its beverage assets wholesaled off to various industry titans, notably The Coca-Cola Company, Diageo, and Pernod Ricard. Universal's television holdings were sold to media entrepreneur Barry Diller, and the balance of the Universal entertainment empire and what was Seagram was sold to French conglomerate Vivendi in 2000.

Seagram's House, the former Seagram's headquarters in Montreal, was donated to McGill University by Vivendi Universal in 2002, then renamed Martlet House.[2] The Seagram Building, once the company's American headquarters in New York City, was commissioned by Phyllis Lambert, daughter of Seagram CEO Samuel Bronfman, and designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with Philip Johnson. Regarded as one of the most notable examples of the functionalist aesthetic and a prominent instance of corporate modern architecture, it set the trend for the city's skyline for decades to follow, and has been featured in several Hollywood films. On completion its costs made it the world's most expensive skyscraper.[3] The Bronfman family sold the Seagram building to TIAA for $70.5 million in 1979.[4]

Seagram Company Ltd.
FateSeagram's core business broken-up and acquired by Pernod Ricard and Diageo, entertainment assets sold to Vivendi, food and beverage assets sold to The Coca-Cola Company.
Pernod Ricard
Universal Studios
Universal Music Group
The Coca-Cola Company
Number of locations
Key people
Joseph E. Seagram
Bronfman family
ProductsAlcoholic beverages, Ginger ale, Tonic water, Club soda
Universal Studios
Spencer Gifts


In 1857, a distillery named Waterloo Distillery was founded in Waterloo, Ontario Canada. Joseph E. Seagram became a partner with George Randall, William Roos and William Hespeler in 1869 and sole owner in 1883, and the company became known as Joseph E. Seagram & Sons. Many decades later, in 1924, Samuel Bronfman and his brothers founded Distillers Corporation Limited, in Montreal, which enjoyed substantial growth in the 1920s, in part due to Prohibition in the United States. (The Distillers Corporation Limited name was derived from a United Kingdom company called Distillers Company Limited, which controlled the leading brands of whisky in the UK, and which was doing business with the Bronfmans.)

In 1923, the Bronfmans purchased the Greenbrier Distillery in the United States, dismantled it, shipped it to Canada, and reassembled it in LaSalle, Quebec.[5] The Bronfmans shipped liquor from Canada to the French-controlled overseas collectivity Saint Pierre and Miquelon off the then-Dominion of Newfoundland, which was then shipped by bootleggers to Rum rows in New York, New Jersey and other states.[6][7]

In 1928, a few years after the death of Joseph E. Seagram (1919), the Distillers Corporation acquired Joseph E. Seagram & Sons from heir and President Edward F. Seagram; the merged company retained the Seagram name. The company was well prepared for the end of Prohibition in 1933 with an ample stock of aged whiskeys ready to sell to the newly opened American market, and it prospered accordingly.

Although he was never convicted of criminal activity, Samuel Bronfman's dealings with bootleggers during the Prohibition-era in the United States have been researched by various historians and are documented in various peer-vetted chronicles.[8][9]

In the 1930s, when Seagram set up business in the United States, it paid a fine of $1.5 million to the US government to settle delinquent excise taxes on liquor illegally exported to the US during Prohibition. The US government had originally asked for $60 million.[10]

Seagram Distillery Buildings
Original Seagram Distillery buildings in Waterloo, now converted to residential condominiums

After the death of Samuel Bronfman in 1971, Edgar M. Bronfman was named Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) until June 1994 when his son, Edgar Bronfman Jr., was appointed CEO.[11]

From the 1950s, most of the family holdings of Distillers-Seagram was held through holding company Cemp Investments, which was owned by the four children of Samuel Bronfman. The three most popular Seagram distilled products in the 1960s through 1990s were Seven Crown, VO, and Crown Royal.

In 1981, cash-rich and wanting to diversify, the U.S.-based subsidiary Seagram Company Ltd. engineered a takeover of Conoco Inc., a major American oil and gas producing company. Although Seagram acquired a 32.2% stake in Conoco, DuPont was brought in as a white knight by the oil company and entered the bidding war. In the end, Seagram lost out in the Conoco bidding war, though in exchange for its stake in Conoco it became a 24.3% owner of DuPont. By 1995, Seagram was DuPont's largest single shareholder with four seats on its board.

In 1986, the company started a memorable TV commercial campaign advertising its Golden wine cooler products. With rising star Bruce Willis as pitchman, Seagram rose from fifth place among distillers to first in just two years.[12]

Seagram's Escapes Mickey Beverage Bodies
Truck advertising the Seagram's Escapes brand of ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages

In 1987, Seagram engineered a $1.2 billion takeover of French cognac maker Martell & Cie.

In 1995, Edgar Bronfman Jr. was eager to get into the film and electronic media business. On April 6, 1995, after being approached by Bronfman, DuPont announced a deal whereby the company would buy back its shares from the Seagram company for $9 billion. Seagram was heavily criticized by the investment community—the 24.3% stake in DuPont accounted for 70% of Seagram's earnings. Standard & Poor's took the unusual step of stating that the sale of the DuPont interest could result in a downgrade of Seagram's more than $4.2 billion of long-term debt. Bronfman used the proceeds of the sale to acquire a controlling interest in MCA, whose assets included Universal Pictures and its theme parks. Later, Seagram purchased PolyGram and Deutsche Grammophon.

In 2000, Edgar Bronfman Jr. sold controlling interest in Seagram's entertainment division to Vivendi, and the beverage division to Pernod Ricard and Diageo. By the time Vivendi began auctioning off Seagram's beverages business, the once-renowned operation consisted of around 250 drink brands and brand extensions in addition to its original high-profile brand names.

In 2002, The Coca-Cola Company acquired the line of Seagram's mixers (ginger ale, tonic water, club soda and seltzer water) from Pernod Ricard and Diageo, as well as signing a long-term agreement to use the Seagram name from Pernod Ricard.[13]

On April 19, 2006, Pernod Ricard announced that they would be closing the former Seagram distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. However, the distillery was instead sold in 2007 to CL Financial, a holding company based in Trinidad and Tobago which then collapsed and required government intervention. They operated the distillery as Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana. In December 2011, the distillery was purchased by MGP Ingredients, headquartered in Atchison, Kansas.[14] It is now known as MGP of Indiana, and continues to be the source of the components of Seagram's Seven Crown, now owned by Diageo.

In a 2013 interview with The Globe and Mail, Charles Bronfman (uncle of Bronfman Jr.) stated that the decisions leading to the demise of Seagram was "a disaster, it is a disaster, it will be a disaster...It was a family tragedy.”[15]

In 1997, the Seagram Museum, formerly the original Seagram distillery in Waterloo, Ontario, was forced to close due to lack of funds. The building is now the home of the Centre for International Governance Innovation as well as Shopify. The two original barrel houses are now the Seagram Lofts condominiums. There were almost 5 acres (2.0 ha) of open land, upon which the Balsillie School of International Affairs was subsequently built; construction began in 2009, and was completed in 2010.[16][17]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Desjardins, Sylvain-Jacques (2004-04-25). "Seagram Building reborn as Martlet House". McGill Reporter. Retrieved 2009-02-07.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Canadian Whiskey: The Portable Expert by Davin de Kergommeaux ISBN 9780771027451 [1]
  6. ^ Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (2010; Simon & Schuster) ISBN 978-0-7432-7702-0 [2]
  7. ^ “From Shirtsleeves to Shirtless”: The Bronfman Dynasty and the Seagram Empire by Graham D. Taylor; Business History Conference, 2006 [3]
  8. ^ Peter C. Newman, Bronfman Dynasty: The Rothschilds of the New World (1978; U.S. title: King of the Castle: The Making of a Dynasty) ISBN 0-7710-6758-5
  9. ^ Daniel Okrent, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition pp.146-158 (2010; Simon & Schuster) ISBN 978-0-7432-7702-0
  10. ^ Bronfman fortune based on ... well ... bootlegging Ottawa Citizen August 19, 1975 [4]
  11. ^ Edgar M. Bronfman, "Good Spirits: The Making of a Businessman" (1998) ISBN 0399143742
  12. ^ Interview with Bruce Willis, page 65, Playboy Magazine, November 1988
  13. ^ "Pernod Ricard and Diageo Sell Seagram's Mixers to The Coca-Cola Company. Business Wire May 7, 2002". Retrieved 2010-12-29.
  14. ^ MGP Ingredients Inc. to Purchase Lawrenceburg, Indiana Distillery Assets, company press release, Oct. 21, 2011.
  15. ^ Slater, Joanna (5 April 2013). "Charles Bronfman opens up about Seagram's demise: 'It is a disaster'". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2013-04-08.
  16. ^ "Construction continues on the Balsillie Campus" July 2, 2010
  17. ^ Mercer, Greg (January 8, 2009). "New Balsillie School will be 'functional, not fancy', The Record, January 8, 2009". Kitchener Record. Retrieved 2009-08-10.
  • Faith, Nicholas. The Bronfmans: The Rise and Fall of the House of Seagram, 2006. ISBN 0-312-33219-X

External links

100 Pipers

100 Pipers is a brand of blended Scotch whisky with smoked notes that is produced by Pernod Ricard. The company says it is the "seventh-largest blended Scotch worldwide", the "No. 2 standard whisky in Asia", and the "No. 1 standard whisky" in Thailand. In addition to Thailand, it is also distributed in India, Spain, and South America. 100 Pipers is a blend of between 25 and 30 source whiskies. Much of it comes from the Allt a'Bhainne distillery, which is also owned by Pernod Ricard and does not have its own bottling facilities. 100 Pipers is bottled in Scotland.

1991 Grand National

The 1991 Grand National (known as the Seagram Grand National for sponsorship reasons) was the 145th renewal of the Grand National horse race that took place at Aintree Racecourse near Liverpool, England, on 6 April 1991.

It was the last Grand National to be sponsored by Seagram, a Canadian distillery corporation that had begun sponsoring the world-famous steeplechase in 1984. Aptly, the race was won by a horse named Seagram, in a time of nine minutes and 29.9 seconds.Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Garrison Savannah looked likely to go on and win when he jumped the 30th and final fence, four lengths clear of his nearest challenger, 11-year-old Seagram. But Seagram made up the ground on the long run-in to secure victory. There was one equine fatality in the race when Ballyhane collapsed and died after finishing.

Breeders' Stakes

The Breeders' Stakes is a stakes race for Thoroughbred race horses foaled in Canada, first run in 1889. Since 1959, it has been the third race in the Canadian Triple Crown for three-year-olds. Held annually in August at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Ontario, the Breeders' Stakes follows the June running of the Queen's Plate and the July running of the Prince of Wales Stakes. At a distance of one-and-a-half miles, the Breeders' Stakes is the longest of the three Triple Crown races and is the only jewel raced on turf (the Queen's Plate is raced on Tapeta synthetic dirt and the Prince of Wales on a traditional dirt track).

Bronfman family

The Bronfman family is a Canadian-American Jewish family. It owes its initial fame to Samuel Bronfman (1889–1971), who made a fortune in the alcoholic distilled beverage business during the 20th century through the family's Seagram Company.The family is of Russian Jewish and Romanian Jewish ancestry; "they were originally tobacco farmers from Bessarabia". According to New York Times staff reporter Nathaniel Popper, the Bronfman family is "perhaps the single largest force in the Jewish charitable world."

Edgar Bronfman Jr.

Edgar Miles Bronfman Jr. (born May 16, 1955) is an American businessman who currently serves as a Managing Partner at Accretive LLC, a private equity firm focused on creating and investing in technology companies. He previously served as CEO of Warner Music Group from 2004 to 2011 and as Chairman of Warner Music Group from 2011 to 2012. In May 2011, the sale of WMG was announced; Bronfman would continue as CEO in the transaction. In August 2011, he became Chairman of the company as Stephen Cooper became CEO. Bronfman previously served as CEO of Seagram and vice-chairman of Vivendi Universal. Bronfman Jr. expanded and later divested ownership of the Seagram Company, and also worked as a Broadway and film producer, and songwriter under the pseudonyms Junior Miles and Sam Roman.

Edgar Bronfman Sr.

Edgar Miles Bronfman (June 20, 1929 – December 21, 2013) was a Canadian-American businessman and philanthropist. He worked for his family distilled beverage firm, Seagram, eventually becoming president, treasurer and CEO. As President of the World Jewish Congress, Bronfman is especially remembered for initiating diplomacy with the Soviet Union, which resulted in legitimizing the Hebrew language in Russia, and contributed to Soviet Jews being legally able to practice their own religion, as well as emigrate to Israel.

Joseph E. Seagram

Joseph Emm Seagram (April 15, 1841 – August 18, 1919) was a Canadian distillery founder, politician, philanthropist, and major owner of thoroughbred racehorses.

MCA Inc.

MCA Inc. (originally an initialism for Music Corporation of America) was an American media company founded in 1924. Originally involved only in the music business, the company next became a major force in the film industry, and later expanded into television production. MCA published music, booked acts, ran a record company, represented film, television, and radio stars, and eventually produced and sold television programs to the three major television networks, but had an especially good relationship with NBC.

MCA was the legal predecessor of Vivendi Universal and thereby NBCUniversal. Its other legal successor is Universal Studios Holding I Corp, a holding company owned by Vivendi, who also owns its former music assets through Universal Music Group (which has absorbed PolyGram) and Universal Music Publishing Group.

Martlet House

Martlet House (formerly Seagram House) is a Scottish baronial style building at 1430 Peel Street in Downtown Montreal, Quebec. The building was completed in 1928 by architect David Jerome Spence, with additions in 1931, 1947 and 1955.Previously the Montreal headquarters of Seagram Company Ltd., the building was donated to McGill University by Vivendi Universal, which had acquired the property in 2002 after its merger with Seagram. The university spent $1.5 million renovating the site in order to house its Development and Alumni Relations department, which moved there in 2004.

Passport Scotch

Passport Scotch, also called Passport Blended Scotch Whisky, is a brand of whisky exported from Scotland by Seagram Distillers, PLC, and currently owned by Pernod Ricard. According to Classic Blended Scotch by Jim Murray, Passport is a blend of more flavored highland malts with lighter and sweet lowland whiskies, made at Seagram's Speyside distilleries. The particular blend used in Passport Scotch was first produced in the 1960s by master blender Jimmy Lang, of Seagram’s Scottish subsidiary Chivas Brothers, and started being sold in 1965. It sold 1.7 million bottles in 2015, being a strong performer in Brazil (where it is second on the Scotch whisky market), Pakistan, Mexico, Spain, Portugal, UAE and Poland.

Planning the Play of a Bridge Hand

Planning the Play of a Bridge Hand is a book on contract bridge co-written by Canadian teacher and author Barbara Seagram and British author David Bird. It was published by Master Point Press in 2009.

The book teaches novice bridge players some basic techniques of declarer play, including suit establishment, ruffing losers, and the finesse. It also explains how to make a plan as declarer, teaching readers how to recognize which technique should apply on a given deal, both in no trump contracts and suit contracts. It also teaches entry management and elementary counting.

The book won the ABTA (American Bridge Teachers Association) Book of the Year award for 2010.


PolyGram was a Dutch entertainment company and major music record label. It was founded in 1962 as the Grammophon-Philips Group by Dutch Philips and German Siemens, to be a holding for their record companies, and was renamed "PolyGram" in 1972. The name was chosen to reflect the Siemens interest Polydor Records and the Philips interest Phonogram Records. The company traced its origins through Deutsche Grammophon back to the inventor of the flat disk gramophone, Emil Berliner.

Later on, PolyGram expanded into the largest global entertainment company, creating film and television divisions. In May 1998, it was sold to the alcoholic distiller Seagram which owned film, television and music company MCA Inc. PolyGram was thereby merged into Universal Music Group, and PolyGram Filmed Entertainment was merged into Universal Pictures, which had been both Seagram successors of MCA. When the newly formed entertainment division of Seagram faced financial difficulties, it was sold to Vivendi, and MCA became known as Universal Studios, as Seagram ceased to exist. Vivendi remains owner of the Universal Music Group (while the film and television division was sold to NBCUniversal). In February 2017, UMG revived the company under the name of PolyGram Entertainment, which currently serves as their film and television division.

PolyGram Filmed Entertainment

PolyGram Filmed Entertainment (formerly known as PolyGram Films and PolyGram Pictures or simply PFE) was a British-American film studio founded in 1980 which became a European competitor to Hollywood, but was eventually sold to Seagram Company Ltd. in 1998 and was folded in 1999. Among its most successful and well known films were An American Werewolf in London (1981), Flashdance (1983), Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Dead Man Walking (1995), The Big Lebowski (1998), Fargo (1996), The Usual Suspects (1995), and Notting Hill (1999).

In 2017, Universal Music Group established a film and television division, resurrecting the Polygram Entertainment name.

Queen's Plate

The Queen's Plate (named the King's Plate from 1901 to 1952, when the reigning monarch was male) is Canada's oldest Thoroughbred horse race, having been founded in 1860. It is also the oldest continuously run race in North America. It is run at a distance of ​1 1⁄4 miles for a maximum of 17 three-year-old Thoroughbred horses foaled in Canada. The race takes place each summer, in June or July, at Woodbine Racetrack, Etobicoke, Ontario, and is the first race in the Canadian Triple Crown.

Samuel Bronfman

Samuel Bronfman, (February 27, 1889 – July 10, 1971) was a Canadian businessman and philanthropist. He founded Distillers Corporation Limited, and is a member of the Canadian Jewish Bronfman family.

Seagram's Seven Crown

Seagram's Seven Crown, also called Seagram's Seven, is a blended American whiskey produced by Diageo under the Seagram name. Seagram's beverage division was acquired by Diageo, Pernod Ricard, and The Coca-Cola Company in 2000.

Seagram's Seven is typically consumed in a highball in combination with mixers such as ginger ale, cola or lemon-lime soda. Seagram's Seven with 7 Up is known as a "7 and 7". It's also often used as an ingredient in Manhattans. Seagram's Seven has an ABV of 40%.

Seagram (rapper)

Seagram Miller (April 13, 1970 – July 31, 1996) was an American rapper from Oakland, California.Miller released two albums in his lifetime: The hard-edged and violent The Dark Roads and the more typically laid-back west coast style Reality Check. Miller was shot to death in a drive-by shooting on July 31, 1996. The killing remains unsolved. He is interred in Oakland. His first posthumous album titled Souls on Ice was released in 1997.

Aside from his own releases, Seagram is perhaps best known for his collaborations with his labelmates, the Geto Boys.

Seagram Building

The Seagram Building is a skyscraper, located at 375 Park Avenue, between 52nd Street and 53rd Street in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The integral plaza, building, stone faced lobby and distinctive glass and bronze exterior were designed by German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Philip Johnson designed the interior of The Four Seasons and Brasserie restaurants. Kahn & Jacobs were associate architects. Severud Associates were the structural engineering consultants. The Seagram building was completed in 1958.

The building stands 515 feet (157 m) tall with 38 stories, and it is one of the most notable examples of the functionalist aesthetic and a prominent instance of corporate modern architecture. It was designed as the headquarters for the Canadian distillers Joseph E. Seagram & Sons with the active interest of Phyllis Lambert, the daughter of Samuel Bronfman, Seagram's CEO.The building is owned by Aby Rosen's RFR Holdings.

University Stadium (Waterloo, Ontario)

University Stadium, also known as Knight–Newbrough Field and formerly known as Seagram Stadium, is a football stadium in Waterloo, Ontario with a capacity of 6,000. It is home to the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks football, rugby, and lacrosse teams. It also served for several years as the home field of soccer side K–W United FC which ceased operations in 2018. Facilities include space for recreational programs and Kinesiology classrooms; there is also a large gym and the football field. The stadium is closed to the public.

The field was also used by the nearby University of Waterloo Warriors for their home football games. The Warriors played their final season at the stadium in 2008; they then moved to the new Warrior Field on the University of Waterloo north campus on Columbia St.

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