Pity or Scorn

Lots of readers have commented on the last posting about the Bronfman sisters and their $150 million problem with what has been described in the press as a cult. If you didn’t work there and experience the good, bad and ugly, it’s unimportant. But for those of us who were at Seagram it’s at least interesting to try to figure it out. (The rest of you can hit the back button.)

Comments I received ranged from glee at the 3rd generation’s continued problems, with many references to “shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves”. (See March 13, 2010 posting.)

One reader took me to task for passing the article along:

Unnecessary to kick them now after all the years they were the Liquor business…it’s not news it’s GOSSIP!

The most interesting comment was this one:

The third generation Bronfmans seems to have a spectacularly pathological need to piss away their fortune. Amazing.

So, after much thought and consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that what they have done with their inheritance — the company or their personal fortunes — is their business and probably more to pity than to scorn. I found this online in an article from the New York Observer (Aug 10, 2010):

Inherited millions are often fraught with an array of pathologies and dysfunctions. In 1987, Joanie Bronfman, then a Brandeis philosophy doctoral candidate and the daughter of Edgar Bronfman Sr.’s cousin Gerald, investigated the peculiar psychoses of the rich in her dissertation The Experience of Inherited Wealth: A Social-Psychological Perspective. In the course of her research, she attended “wealth conferences” and interviewed heirs and heiresses. Drawing from her own experience of growing up “visibly wealthy” and full of “shame” as a result of it, Ms. Bronfman argued that inheritors of massive wealth tend to be emotionally stunted. They adopt paranoid worldviews and come to see humans as radically selfish. They perceive relationships to be transactional. Their misanthropy derives from the attempts of absentee parents to buy their affections as compensation for outsourcing their rearing to hired professionals. These feelings are reinforced when they interact with the world outside their class and are alternately solicited for donations or mocked as dilettantes by the media. It was that last many-tentacled villain she accused of promulgating a destructive bias toward inheritors, one that she termed “wealthism.”

Could also explain the Busch family.

Maybe it should be called the un-lucky sperm club but I don’t think so.

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