Movies ‘n’ Shakers

Movies ‘n’ Shakers

Political money may help his high-stakes battle with beer companies.

by Omar Beer

#5 Edgar M. Bronfman Jr., 41, New York, N.Y. Party: Both. $455,500 total contributions.

View Bronfman’s itemized contributions.

Billionaire Edgar Bronfman Jr. inherited the helm of the Seagram Company Ltd. in 1994. His grandfather Sam Bronfman built the beverage powerhouse, but the grandson has expanded it into telecommunications by buying a piece of Time Warner and pursuing a personal movie bug: The former teenage amateur filmmaker grew up to buy 80 percent of MCA/Universal Studios in 1995.

Although his interests clearly don’t stop at the lip of a lowball, Bronfman spent his biggest chunk of political capital in 1996 protecting his family’s alcohol business. Liquor sales have been declining industrywide for a number of years. And now, Bronfman may well be playing poker with the president.

Last year, Seagram televised a liquor ad, breaking a voluntary ban the industry had observed since 1948. Clinton condemned the breach as a threat to kids. But cynics muse that Bronfman is bluffing. He doesn’t really want to compete with beer companies, which spend close to $600 million per year on broadcast ads.

Instead, he may hope that Clinton reacts by banning all booze ads — including beer and wine. He’ll still have an outlet; research has shown that movies produced by companies with connections to the alcohol industry portray almost twice the amount of drinking as their “sober” competitors.


See our profile of Edgar Bronfman Sr. in “Returned to Sender.”

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