Mr. Bronfman inherited control of Seagram from his father, Samuel Bronfman. As president of the World Jewish Congress, from 1981 until 2007, Mr. Bronfman turned a loose, cautious federation of Jewish groups in 66 countries into a more focused, confrontational organization.
Edgar Miles Bronfman was born in Montreal on June 20, 1929. His father and his mother, the former Saidye Rosner, were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe who had moved to Montreal from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Edgar was the third-born of their four children.
Mr. Bronfman enrolled at Williams College in Massachusetts and then transferred to McGill University in Montreal, graduating in 1951.
In 1953 Mr. Bronfman married Ann Loeb, a granddaughter of the financier Carl M. Loeb. Loeb, Rhoades & Company helped the Bronfmans purchase the Texas Pacific Coal and Oil Company.
Mr. Bronfman convinced his father that since the United States accounted for 90 percent of Seagram revenues, it made sense to install himself permanently in New York. In 1953 Samuel Bronfman put Edgar in control of the company’s subsidiary in the United States, Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, and placed his brother Charles in charge of the Canadian branch, the House of Seagram.
Mr. Bronfman moved to New York two years later and shortly afterward became an American citizen — although it was his sister Phyllis, who had studied architecture, who was put in charge of the construction of the new company headquarters, the Seagram Building, on Park Avenue, considered a jewel of modern skyscraper design.
At its zenith, in 1956, Seagram’s products accounted for one of every three distilled-alcohol drinks in the United States.
He is survived by Ms. Jan Aronson; his sons, Samuel, Edgar Jr., Matthew and Adam, and his daughter Holly Bronfman Lev, all from his first marriage; his daughters with Ms. Webb, Sara Igtet and Clare Bronfman; his brother, Charles; his sister Phyllis Lambert; 24 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.