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Peter Bronfman dead at 68

December 2, 1996

TORONTO (AP) _ Peter Frederick Bronfman, who co-owned the Montreal Canadiens from 1971-78, died Sunday after a brief battle with cancer. He was 68.

Bronfman, one of two brothers who rose to control the largest corporate empire ever assembled in Canada, was a shy and polite man who was never comfortable in the corridors of corporate power. He wanted to be known for his affection for friends and family rather than the billions of dollars his companies controlled.

His downtown office was distinguished by the fact that it contained a rocking chair and dozens of family photographs.

Friends said the only corporate love of Bronfman’s life was the Canadiens, which he owned with his brother, Edward.

The brothers were forced to sell their block of shares in Seagram Co. Ltd. to their Montreal-based cousins in the 1960s, but later built a group of companies that at the height of its size and power included the leading purveyors of almost every important good or service.

The group, known as the Edper Bronfman empire after Peter and his older brother Edward, has included management companies such as Brascan Ltd., resource giants like Noranda Inc. and consumer-products companies such as John Labatt Ltd.

But Bronfman became quietly famous for routinely turning up at glitzy Toronto business gatherings in a cardigan, with no tie, and ambling around the outskirts of the meeting room chatting to people.

Had he lived another day, Bronfman would have been named to the Order of Canada in a private bedside ceremony attended by Gov. General Romeo LeBlanc.

Journalist and activist June Callwood, a close friend of Bronfman, said he was unfailingly polite and generous. She said Bronfman was a major supporter of a home for single mothers in Toronto, a local AIDS hostel, the Toronto Humane Society and a long list of other charities.

He is survived by his third wife, Lynda; children Linda, Bruce and Brenda; his brother Edward; his first wife, Diane Bronfman, the mother of his children; his second wife, the former Theodora Reitsma; and six grandchildren.

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