Charles Bronfman

Charles Bronfman, PC CC (born June 27, 1931) is a Canadian-American businessman and philanthropist[1] and is a member of the Canadian Jewish Bronfman family. With an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion (as of 2021), Bronfman was ranked by Forbes as the 27th wealthiest Canadian and 1,249th in the world.[2]

Charles Bronfman

Charles Rosner Bronfman

(1931-06-27) June 27, 1931
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
United States
EducationSelwyn House School
Trinity College School
Alma materMcGill University
Parent(s)Samuel Bronfman
Saidye Rosner Bronfman
RelativesMinda de Gunzburg (sister)
Phyllis Lambert (sister)
Edgar Bronfman Sr. (brother)

Baseball career
Member of the Canadian
Baseball Hall of Fame


Bronfman was born into a Jewish family 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 Seagram. 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 sought his dual citizenship in order to vote in the United States.[3][4]

Business career

Bronfman held various positions in the family's liquor empire, Seagram, 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 corporate empire. Under the leadership of Charles and brother Edgar, it controlled billions of dollars in liquor, real estate, oil and gas, and chemical companies.[5]

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."[3][6]

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.[3] He planned to close the foundation in 2016.[7]

From November 1997 until July 2002, Bronfman was the chairman of the board of Koor Industries Ltd.,[8] 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."[9]


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 700,000 young Jews from around the world on a 10-day free trip to Israel.[3]

In 1991, Bronfman with billionaire Leslie Wexner formed the "Mega Group",[10] a loosely organized club of some the wealthiest and most influential businessmen who were concerned with Jewish issues. Max Fisher, Michael Steinhardt, Leonard Abramson, Edgar Bronfman Sr., and Laurence Tisch were some of the members. The "Mega Group" would meet twice a year for two days of seminars related to the topic of philanthropy and Jewishness. In 1998, Steven Spielberg spoke about his personal religious journey, and later the group discussed Jewish summer camps.[11] The "Mega Group", went on to inspire a number of philanthropic initiatives such as the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, Birthright Israel, and the upgrading of national Hillel.[10]

Bronfman is chairman of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies Inc.,[12] a family of charitable foundations operating in Israel, the U.S., and Canada. Since its foundation in 1986,[13] the charity spent more than $340 million to about 1,820 organizations. In 2016 Bonfman closed the charity, which was planned over years.[14] Bronfman is also responsible for The Charles Bronfman Prize,[15] honoring individuals for their humanitarian contributions. The first winner was Gift of Life Marrow Registry founder Jay Feinberg. He also founded the CRB Foundation, which runs educational enrichment classes in outlying areas in collaboration with the Education Ministry in Israel.[16][17]

Bronfman was a founding co-chairman of Historica Canada, 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.[18][19]

Bronfman joined the Giving Pledge, an initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.[2][7]

Personal life

Bronfman has been married four times:

  • Barbara Baerwald (1938–2021). Married 1961,[20] divorced 1982.[21] They had two children.[22]
    • Stephen Bronfman runs the investment firm founded by his father, Claridge. He is married to Claudine Blondin.[23]
    • Ellen Bronfman Hauptman is married to Andrew Hauptman. They are the founders of the private investment firm Andell Holdings, the former owner of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club.[24]
  • 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.[25] 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.[26]
  • 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."[27]
  • Rita Mayo. They married in 2012.[3]

Awards and honours

Works or publications

  • Bronfman, Charles, and Jeffrey Solomon. The Art of Doing Good: Where Passion Meets Action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012. ISBN 978-1-1182-8574-9
  • Bronfman, Charles, and Jeffrey Solomon. The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010. ISBN 978-0-4705-0146-7
  • Seagram Museum collection Archived July 11, 2020, at the Wayback Machine at Hagley Museum and Library (finding aid)


  1. "Grant Directory". The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies. Retrieved March 26, 2022.
  2. "The World's Billionaires: Charles Bronfman". Forbes. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  3. Slater, Joanna (April 5, 2013). "The Lunch: Charles Bronfman opens up about Seagram's demise: 'It is a disaster'". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved December 25, 2013.
  4. "At age 90, Charles Bronfman reflects on business career, beloved Expos". montrealgazette. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  5. Nicolas Faith, The Bronfmans: The Rise and Fall of the House of Seagram. St. Martin's Griffin, 2007. ISBN 978-0312332204. Retrieved 22 April 2015
  6. "The making of Lunch with Charles Bronfman" (video). The Globe and Mail. April 5, 2013. Retrieved December 25, 2013.
  7. "Charles Bronfman Letter" (PDF). The Giving Pledge. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 13, 2013. Retrieved December 25, 2013.
  8. "Website Koor". Archived from the original on December 26, 2013. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  9. Haaretz: "100 American Jewish leaders urge Netanyahu to show readiness to make 'painful territorial sacrifices'" by Chemi Shalev April 3, 2013
  10. Encyclopaedia Judaica. Skolnik, Fred, Berenbaum, Michael, 1945– (2nd ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA in association with the Keter Pub. House. 2007. pp. 32–34. ISBN 9780028659282. OCLC 70174939.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. Journal, Lisa MillerStaff Reporter of The Wall Street (May 4, 1998). "Titans of Industry Join Forces To Work for Jewish Philanthropy". The Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved August 10, 2019.
  13. "The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies :: Visual Timeline". Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  14. Arnold, Janice; Reporter, Staff (March 14, 2016). "Charles Bronfman winds down his philanthropic foundation". The Canadian Jewish News. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  16. "About". Karev Foundation. Archived from the original on July 22, 2014. Retrieved December 25, 2013.
  17. Sadeh, Shuki (March 17, 2013). "How foreign donors reshaped Israel: A who's who". Haaretz. Retrieved November 30, 2013.
  18. "Charles Bronfman | The Canadian Encyclopedia". Retrieved November 22, 2019.
  19. "Seagram co-chairman Charles Bronfman on running a family business". Retrieved November 22, 2019.
  20. Kolber, Leo; MacDonald, L. Ian (October 27, 2003). Leo: A Life. McGill-Queen's Press – MQUP. p. 45. ISBN 9780773526341.
  21. "The Montreal Gazette - Google News Archive Search".
  22. "Charles Bronfman". The Charles Bronfman Prize. Retrieved December 25, 2013.
  23. Forbes: "The Other Bronfman" by Monte Burke August 19, 2006
  24. Forbes: "Major League Soccer's Billionaire Owners" by Charles Smith November 20, 2013
  25. Fox, Margalit (January 25, 2006). "Andrea M. Bronfman, 60, an Internationally Noted Philanthropist, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved December 25, 2013.
  26. Sign on San Diego: "Andrea Morrison Bronfman; active in Jewish causes; 60" By Margalit Fox January 28, 2006
  27. Fabrikant, Geraldine (May 13, 2011). "Divorce, in Style". The New York Times. Retrieved December 25, 2013.
  28. MacLeod, Roderick; Abrahamson, Eric John (2010). Spirited Commitment: The Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation. Quebec. p. 108.
  30. Bronfman, Charles; Solomon, Jeffrey R. (2010). The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan. p. 264.
  31. Office of the Governor General of Canada. Order of Canada citation. Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved May 24, 2010
  32. "Honorary Degree Recipients | Board of Trustees | Brandeis University". Retrieved November 22, 2019.
  33. "Honorary degree citation - Charles Bronfman". Retrieved November 22, 2019.
  34. "Presenter". TIGER 21. Retrieved November 22, 2019.
  35. "JTS Commencement Recognized Graduating Class of 2017 with Address from Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen - Jewish Theological Seminary". Retrieved January 8, 2023.
  36. "City of Montreal honours businessman, philanthropist Charles Bronfman - Montreal |". May 21, 2019. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
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