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Sale of Seagram a 'tragedy': Charles Bronfman

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Charles Bronfman, former co-chair of Seagram, once a Montreal-based liquor heavyweight, and son of legendary businessman, Sam Bronfman, says he’s still upset about the sale of the company, calling it a "terrible tragedy."

"It was our DNA as a family, but more important than that, it was what happened to the other shareholders who lost a hell of a lot of money. It's what happened to my colleagues, our employees, those I feel the worst for and for what happened to my own self image and my kids' self image," he tells BNN. "Frankly it was devastating."

Bronfman says his father, who helped turn the liquor company into a global powerhouse, would feel even worse.

"I get very emotional every time I think about it," he says. "He didn't build up that business to see it go away."

He also says he regrets how the sale happened, as well as his reaction to it.

"I always felt responsible for not having fought as a hard as maybe I might have fought. But that would have ended up in a family war and in a family war nobody wins and probably the same results at the end of the day would have happened," Bronfman says.

In the 1990s, Charles Bronfman's nephew, Edgar Bronfman Jr., altered the focus of the company's operations to the entertainment business by first selling Seagrams' stake in DuPont and then acquiring Polygram, MCA and Universal Pictures. Eventually his nephew orchestrated an outright sale of the entire company to French conglomerate Vivendi, who spun off the liquor operations and eventually sold those to Pernod Ricard and Diageo.

"It was a very interesting business and a serious one and to see it go down the tubes…that hurts," Charles Bronfman tells BNN.

He also says the new government in Quebec may not be a positive for the province's business community. Quebec recently elected the nationalist Parti Quebecois – led by Premier Pauline Marois – to a minority government after nine years as official opposition.

"I think about business because business makes our society click and she's probably going to increase taxes as much as she can in a minority government," he says. "Particularly I think the tax situation and the fear of more taxes might drive more people out, which would be unfortunate."

He hopes that calls for a referendum on Quebec’s independence don’t become a reality.

"From a societal standpoint Quebec is now a French society, everything happens in French -- fine, but don't go any further than that, they have the world absolutely by the tail and they are under the umbrella of Canada, God Bless them, let them stay that way," he says.

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