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The Bronfman family gets in tune with the digital age

Behind every billionaire lies a very interesting story. Take forexample the Bronfman family, a feuded tale of a clan who got theirstart in the dodgy business of liquor sales during the time ofprohibition.

Fortune’s Fool
Fred Goodman
Simon & Schuster
286 pages, $36.00

Behind every billionaire lies a very interesting story. Take for example the Bronfman family, a feuded tale of a clan who got their start in the dodgy business of liquor sales during the time of prohibition. Fast forward a few decades later, and you have a business led by Edgar Bronfman under the new tutelage of Seagram and a stellar jewel of a head office, The Seagram Building on Park Avenue.


Fred Goodman’s book, which is actually a story about the music business and the purchase by Edgar Bronfman Jr. of Warner Music Group, paints a salacious tale of a family of heirs gunning to outdo their predecessors, ultimately dismantling an empire with about as much sentimentality as they showed in the selling of the Seagram building in 1978 for a cool $75 million.


“Everything at Seagram, no matter how singular or closely tied to the Bronfman family legend, was for sale at the right price”.


There is no arguing that the music business is not what it used to be. The confusion comes when a billionaire takes a (seemingly) losing bet on an industry to the tune of a few billion dollars, divesting some very solid Dupont stock to boot.


The book takes a close look at the intensity shown by Edgar Bronfman Jr. in trying to remake the music industry into an Internet-friendly business, including controversial 360 artist agreements that take revenue cuts from streams formerly exclusive to the artists.


All arguments aside, the company’s profits have improved (though slightly) and by and large they do have a lead in digital sales for the industry. A true tale that reads like fiction.



– Craig Lund, a director with the staffing firm Marketers on Demand, can be reached at craig.lund@marketersondemand.com

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