Clare and Sara Bronfman, who fund NXIVM, and their master, Keith Alan Raniere, are the granddaughters of a gent named Samuel Bronfman.
In Yiddish, by the way, “Bronfman” means “liquor-man.” The family is Russian Jewish.
In the early 20th century, Sam Bronfman, with his brothers Abe, Harry and Alan, began a modest hotel and prostitution chain. During Canada’s prohibition (1915-19), they added illegal liquor and converted the hotels – with their live-in prostitutes – into “boozeriums.”
For the first three years of Canadian Prohibition, business was brisk. But in 1918, a law was passed that prohibited the manufacture or importation of alcohol. There was a loophole, happily, that permitted distribution by pharmacists of alcohol for “medicinal” purposes.
The Bronfmans immediately went into the pharmacy business, selling, via mail order, their whiskey, putting labels on bottles such as “Rock-A-Bye Cough Cure” and “Dandy Bracer–Liver and Kidney Cure.”
Typically, their health tonics contained sugar, molasses, bluestone, 36 percent alcohol, and tobacco.
With the passage of the Volstead Act in 1919, making liquor illegal in the United States, Sam and Harry opened export houses along the Saskatchewan-North Dakota border. They reduced 65-over proof white alcohol, mixing it with water, a little real whiskey and a touch of burnt sugar. A shot of sulfuric acid simulated the aging process.
Their whiskey cost $24 per barrel. They sold it by the barrel for $140.
Sam and his brothers cut distribution deals with a fine cast of businessmen such as Arnold Rothstein, Meyer Lansky, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, and Arthur ‘Dutch Schultz,’ Flegenheimer.
In Detroit, the “little Jewish Navy” under Morris Dalit ferried the Bronfman liquor into the U.S.
In Chicago, James “Big Jim” Colosimo annoyed Sam Bronfman by showing no interest in buying his liquor, preferring to focus on his already profitable businesses of drugs, prostitution, and loan-sharking.
But Big Jim passed away suddenly. His nephew, John Torrio, took over, and wisely chose to help Bronfman usher his liquor into Chicago.
Torrio’s lieutenant, a gent by the name of Al Capone, led the operations of bringing Bronfman’s liquor from Saskatchewan to Minneapolis, then to Chicago, using cars, trucks and the Soo line.
Another gent by the name of Benjamin “Bugs” Siegel – and Meyer Lansky – were in charge of protecting Bronfman liquor shipments across the border against hijackers.
To meet the growing demand, Sam bought up farmland along the border and built an underground pipeline to pump his liquor – nicknamed, “Seagram Chickencock,” a mixture of pure alcohol, sulfuric acid, caramel, water and aged rye whiskey – into the USA. Between 1920 and 1930, 34,000 Americans died from alcohol poisoning.
In 1924, ambitious Sam opened up a distillery in Montreal. By 1926, Sam got the attention of the big boys in England, the true power elite that controlled much of the world’s wealth.
The Distillery Corporation of London [DCL] owned by Field Marshal Haig, Lord Dewar, Lord Woolavington, and others who preferred to be anonymous, and at which time controlled more than half the world market in scotch whiskey, partnered with Bronfman to form a neat little holding company.
DCL’s William Ross was president. Sam Bronfman was vice-president.
Bronfman became, in effect, a ‘cutout’ for the men behind DCL. It is said that their distribution rights were granted by His Majesty, King George V.
Whether true or not, the holding company began as a three-way contract between Britain (the supplier), Bronfman (the cutout, or, more politely, the middleman), and Rothstein (the American distributor).
It evolved into a nationally organized syndicate.
Rothstein was assigned the job of “reorganizing” networks to help provide a more efficient delivery system. He set up syndicates on the East Coast with the help of Torrio.
A special bureau was set up by Lansky and “Bugs” Siegel.
And a very special group of men formed a regulatory commission, which was unofficially called Murder, Inc., to police “free enterprise” advocates who might try to try to operate their own liquor distribution enterprises without permission.
Rothstein, unhappily, died rather suddenly in 1928. Torrio held his first meeting of the syndicate in Cleveland.
The third item on the agenda – and an important one at that – was what to do when the inevitable occurred – when Prohibition ended.
Torrio proposed narcotics. He felt American youth – if they were properly exposed to it – would be good customers. Drugs could be better than alcohol.
Rothstein, Lansky, and Luciano traveled to Shanghai and Hong Kong to streamline and expand the drug importation business into the US, negotiating with Chinese drug exporters – colloquially called drug-runners. Some of the most elite of the British business community urged the gentlemen to organize [with their help] an opium cartel expansion of Shanghai heroin into the United States.
Bronfman, doing his level best to help, created the Atlas Shipping Company and moved drug importing operations to the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, 15 miles off the Newfoundland coast.
From Bermuda, Saint John, New Brunswick, and Belize, the Atlas Shipping Company was a pioneer of the money-drug underground railway between Canada and the Caribbean and back.
With Bronfman’s assistance, a substantial chunk of the world’s financial system became devoted to moving, laundering, and, of course, reinvesting drug money.
In the US, with Bronfman’s help, a growing number of youths were enjoying the narcotic products being provided to them.
From the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank, to the offshore havens in the Caribbean, to the largest banks in the United States, Britain, Canada, and Switzerland, much of the profits were derived from tax-free, recreational drug money.
Bronfman became quite wealthy by investing his illegal liquor profits into illegal drugs after Prohibition. How wise he was too. When that horrible day came – the repeal of Prohibition – Bronfman already had the Shanghai opium deal fully in operation.
It was now time for Bronfman to “go legit.”
This new phase of respectability, by the way, signaled to those who knew what went on behind the scenes, that the most successful big-time whiskey bootlegger was switching to big-time narcotics.
The British elite, who guided Sam, had realized he could wind up being a liability if he continued to work as openly with their distributors in narcotics trafficking as he did with liquor distributors when they operated during Prohibition.
Still, they could not quite afford to dump Sam, crude and violent as he was.
The Bronfman family had become irreplaceable due to its in-depth control over the syndicates which once provided illegal liquor and now were needed to provide illegal drugs to America.
The problem was happily resolved by bringing Bronfman into the lower rungs of the Hofjuden caste.
Sam’s children were welcomed into the Hofjuden elite by marriage. Almost overnight, the Rothschilds, Montefiores, de Hirsches et al took Sam, the crime czar of North America, and transformed him into the rising star of the Canadian Zionist movement.
In 1934, Sam was made chairman of the National Jewish People’s Relief Committee in Canada. By 1939, he was appointed head of Baron de Hirsch’s Jewish Colonization Association.
The Canadian Pacific Corporation invited Sam to establish a refugee organization for Eastern European Jews. He became head of the Canadian Jewish Committee. After World War II, Sam established the National Conference of Israeli and Jewish Rehabilitation.
The “legitimate” enterprises and noble humanitarian efforts of Bronfman were inter-meshed with companies controlled by leading opium traders.
Using the name of the distillery he had purchased long ago, Sam founded a legit company called Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc. Despite the fact he built Seagrams with his brothers, Sam decided the business should be his alone. Sam forced his brothers out and declared that only his sons, Edgar and Charles, would work for Seagram.
With a fortune at his disposal from illegal drugs and alcohol, Bronfman expanded his legit Seagrams to 150 countries. His operations were the largest liquor distribution system in the history of the world.
Of course, whenever Seagram branches appeared, narcotics runners added for Sam, and his silent backers, an extra nice share of profits.
On the legit end, Seagram acquired West Indies distilleries that produced Captain Morgan, Myers’s, Woods, and Trelawny labels. Seagram purchased Chivas [Regal] Mumm’s Champagne, Perrior-Jouet Champagne, Barton & Guestier, Augier Frères, Paul Masson vineyards and distribution rights to Absolut vodka.
Seagrams invested in the Alberta-based oil company, Royalite. Bronfman purchased the Frankfort Oil Company and expanded Tropicana Products with the purchase of Dole Food Co.
Now that he was ‘legit’ and ultra-respectable, Sam’s son, Edgar, married Ann Loeb, daughter of Loeb, Rhoades. and Co.  bringing the Bronfmans into Wall Street. Edgar and Ann had five children together – Samuel, Edgar Jr., Holly, Matthew, and Adam.
In 1957, Edgar, Sr. became Seagram’s president.
In 1963, Seagram acquired the Texas Pacific Coal and Oil Company. Frankfort and Texas Pacific were merged to form Texas Pacific Oil Company, Inc.
In 1969, the noble Sam was made a Knight of Grace of the Most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem – Her Majesty’s official chivalric order. He won the Order of Canada – the country’s highest honor for lifetime achievement.
On a warm summer day in July 1971, at age of 81, the old murderer turned knight, Sam Bronfman died of prostate cancer. He was unable, by all reports, to take any of his accumulated wealth with him.
On the day of his funeral, Montreal’s airport had to be closed to regular air traffic due to the arrival of too many private jets carrying dignitaries from around the world to pay their final respects to a man who had already headed off to a far warmer climate.
With his father’s death, Edgar assumed the family leadership. He also divorced his wife and, in 1975, Edgar married Rita Webb, the daughter of a barkeeper.
She gave birth to two little future demons, Sara and Clare Bronfman.
In 1978, Edgar Bronfman’s wealth was estimated to be about $7 billion [$28 billion in 2018 dollars].
Edgar, following in his father Sam’s philanthropic shoes, became president of the World Jewish Congress in 1981 – and making perhaps the worst financial decision in the history of business, decided that his second son, Edgar Jr., should become his business successor.
If the Bronfman wealth had been accumulated by Sam through crimes against humanity, it was lost by his grandson Edgar Jr.’s enormous stupidity.
It started off fairly well.
Seagram purchased 15 percent interest in Time Warner Inc. for $2.2 billion.
Edgar Jr. then went on to make a mixed bag of investments – some of which were successful and some not quite so – selling off long established profitable enterprises to get into more speculative ones.
In the mid-1990s, Bronfman, Jr. sold Seagram’s stake in DuPont, receiving $11 billion.
Seagram then acquired 84 percent of MCA, Inc. for $5.7 billion. He changed the name of MCA to Universal Studios, Inc. – and their holdings included Universal Pictures film studios, MCA Television Group, MCA Music Entertainment Group, Universal theme parks, and Spencer Gifts.
In 1997, Seagram divested its holdings in Time Warner, ending up with a profit of $2.13 billion. Seagram then purchased USA Networks. In 1998, Seagram sold its juice business to Pepsi for $3.3 billion.
Then in perhaps the most stupendous blunder in modern business history, in 2000, Edgar Jr. exchanged his family’s entire firm – liquor, music labels, TV production contracts, U.S. theme parks and all – for $34 billion in stock in a French sewer and filtration company called Vivendi, which was planning on transforming itself [with Edgar’s help] into the world’s largest global entertainment conglomerate.
Yes, that right – one of the wealthiest companies in the world, Seagram’s, was traded for a minority share of a French sewer company Vivendi – whose charismatic president Jean-Marie Messier charmed Edgar Jr. into the dream of being the largest media conglomerate in the world.
And that seemed a lot prettier than selling liquor. It would sanitize the Bronfmans. It would allow them to have power no one in the world ever knew before.
It looked good on paper and they had grandiose plans to become the entertainment giant that would change the world.
Edgar, Jr., perhaps it might be said, did not think it through. He had a minority share. He sold his family’s wealth for less than 50 percent of Vivendi. In fact, Edgar was named executive vice president of Vivendi Universal.
But the contracts were drawn poorly.
Vivendi CEO Jean-Marie Messier had full control of the company. He did not fulfill [and he did not legally have to fulfill] his promise to merge the two companies into a media giant.
Instead, Messier made a number of poorly conceived deals that wound up driving the Vivendi stock price down to a fraction of what it was when Vivendi acquired Seagram in exchange for Vivendi stock.
On this one curious deal, the Bronfman family lost two-thirds of their fortune accumulated since Sam’ bootlegging and murder days in the 1920s.
In 2004, Edgar Jr., trying to make a comeback, put together a group of investors to buy the music operations of Time Warner Inc. Sadly, it was another boneheaded investment. The traditional music industry’s survival depended on selling $20 CDs, not $1 downloads. Power shifted from retailers like Time Warner music to simple fans.
In another incredible move, Edgar Jr. turned down EMI’s offer to buy Warner for $31 a share. In 2011, Access Industries wound up buying the failing Warner Music Group from Bronfman for $8.25 a share.
Most of what remained of the Bronfman family money was lost in this deal.
On December 22, 2013, Edgar Bronfman Sr. died at age 84. His personal net worth [he had set aside some personal living money before he handed over the reins to his son] was estimated to be several billion.
It was divided up by his seven children and wife. Sara and Clare, who had already borrowed against their inheritance, got an estimated $350 million each. That, along with an earlier trust received when their father was alive made their total inheritance in the $500 million each range.
In 2002, Clare and Sara came under the guidance of a man named Keith Alan Raniere. He was a Vanguard, and, it is said, the smartest man in the world. He was also an athlete, a concert-level pianist, a judo expert, a mathematician, a sprinter, a scientist, a philosopher, a mystic, and an ethicist.
Under his guidance, Clare and Sara quickly decreased their net worth.
They lost their first trust fund before their father died. In early 2005, they began covering Raniere’s sure-fire mathematical investment formula in the commodities market. From January 2005 to late 2007, Raniere lost $68 million of Clare and Sara’s money in a corn future’s trade that somehow found Raniere not correctly guessing the future of the price of corn.
By late 2007, Clare and Sara invested another $26.4 million into Raniere’s brilliant plan for a spectacular Los Angeles real-estate project. Unhappily, the project ran amok and was never completed.
Clare and Sara also invested in Raniere’s world mission – the Nxivm Corp. – which was dedicated to making the world a more ethical place. They spent an estimated $50 million in lawyers on litigation against Raniere’s enemies who were trying to make the world a less ethical place.
In the end, Clare and Sara even had to hack their own father’s computer, for Edgar Sr. had become of the Raniere’s enemies.
Despite their one-time family wealth [the Bronfman’s are no longer among the leading wealthy families of the world], the Bronfman family was, in terms of real global power, likely only front men. Cutouts, whose main purpose was to provide cover for the criminal activity of those much higher up in the elite financial world.
Still, no one can argue that Sam, with his muscle, managed much of the bootlegging in America and paved the way for the importation of heroin and cocaine in America [No wonder Emiliano Salinas and Clare Bronfman worked so well together!].
Over three generations, the Bronfmans – mainly through Edgar Jr., – lost most of their wealth. Much of the comparatively small share inherited by Clare and Sara has been spent to enable Raniere to punish and hurt hundreds if not thousands of human beings. [While Clare inherited about $500 million altogether, she listed her net worth as $200 million on her bail application.]
In this, the two sisters were much like their grandfather – cutouts – in their case for Raniere.
The two sisters were able to hurt others with each dollar they spent. And they squandered their money almost as well proportionately as their half brother Edgar, Jr.
In one respect, it is a mercy. For every dollar that Clare and Sara spent or wasted and lost is one less dollar they can use to punish other human beings.