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COMPANY TOWN: HOLLYWOOD MEGA-DEAL : Seagram’s Big Gulp : THE WOULD-BE MOGUL : Seagram’s Edgar Bronfman Jr. May Be Well Cast for the Role

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

He has been called Hollywood-handsome, an aspiring movie mogul and a billionaire with a taste for beautiful wives.

He once co-produced a movie flop called “The Border” starring Jack Nicholson, and in earlier years wrote romantic pop tunes for show business friends such as Dionne Warwick.

His film industry pals range from actor Michael Douglas to superagent Michael S. Ovitz.

Indeed, show business flows in the veins of Edgar Bronfman Jr., who runs family-controlled, Montreal-based distilling giant Seagram Co., which is poised to acquire a controlling stake in entertainment conglomerate MCA Inc.

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He is part of a dynasty that stretches back four generations. His great-grandfather, Ekiel Bronfman, a refugee from Czarist Russia, arrived in Canada in 1889 and set up a homestead in Saskatchewan, later moving to Manitoba, where he bought a string of hotels.

His grandfather, Sam Bronfman, was a legendary booze runner who, according to published accounts, loaded whiskey into the stripped-down Studebakers of U.S. bootleggers during Prohibition.

Over the years, the Bronfman clan has had strong ties to Hollywood as well. Bronfman’s father, Edgar M. Bronfman, once bought 15% of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, but after losing his bid for control sold his interests in the late ‘60s to Kirk Kerkorian.

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Known as “Effer” to his friends, the 39-year-old Bronfman Jr. has long aspired to become a movie mogul, entertainment industry insiders say.

Soft-spoken and reserved, he is not the stereotypical Fortune 500 boss. Canadian Business magazine last year described him as a “tall and whippet-thin (man who) walks with the broad, rolling gait of an athlete, but doesn’t seem in a hurry.”

In the 1970s, the younger Bronfman entered the movie business after his father invested in two films by British producer David Puttnam, “Melody” and “The Pied Piper.” Puttnam hired the teen-ager as a “runner” on the movie sets; they later became friends.

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While still in high school, Bronfman produced a World War II-era drama set in Poland called “The Blockhouse.” He never attended college, instead heading directly to Hollywood.

“I’ve always gotten more out of working and felt I would learn more from experience than I would in a classroom,” he told a Canadian business publication.

Bronfman’s movie career didn’t go far. He co-produced “The Border” in 1982, but even with the star power of Nicholson, the movie failed at the box office. Soon he was back living in New York, where he surprised observers by accepting a job offer from his father .

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“He has demonstrably done some good things for Seagram,” said one Canadian securities analyst who follows the company. Bronfman is credited with a smart purchase of juice maker Tropicana Products and with boosting the performance of Seagram’s line of wine coolers.

Bronfman became president of Seagram in 1989 and last June succeeded his father as chief executive.

It was through Hollywood that he met his first wife, actress Sherry Brewer, a friend of Warwick, for whom Bronfman wrote a song called “Whisper in the Dark.” The 11-year marriage, which produced a son and two daughters, ended in divorce in 1991.

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Bronfman met his current wife, Clarissa Alcock, in 1990 while on a trip to Venezuela. She has been described in published accounts as a “stunning . . . oil heiress with a degree in industrial relations.” They were married in 1993 at a ceremony attended by 1,200 guests at his grandmother’s estate.

Some Hollywood insiders think Bronfman Jr. would be a strong, hands-on studio executive.

“They never completely left Hollywood,” entertainment attorney Peter Dekom said of the Bronfmans’ interest in movie making.

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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