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Ann Loeb Bronfman, at 78; championed many causes

ANN LOEB BRONFMAN ANN LOEB BRONFMAN (New York Times/File 1997)
By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post / April 9, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Ann Loeb Bronfman, an heir to two family fortunes who married into another and became a philanthropist devoted to wide-ranging causes, died Tuesday at Sibley Memorial Hospital. She had complications of emphysema. She was 78.

Descended from pillars of Wall Street investment banking, Ms. Bronfman attended exclusive boarding schools and enjoyed a privileged upbringing.

She was married for two decades to Edgar Bronfman Sr., who became head of his family’s billion-dollar Seagram distillery company. The Bronfmans divorced in 1973.

In a period when some of America’s wealthiest families found their children targets of often-violent kidnappings, the Bronfmans’ eldest son, Samuel, was abducted from a family estate in suburban New York on Aug. 9, 1975.

He was held for more than a week before his father paid a $2.3 million ransom — arbitrarily reduced from the initial request of $4.6 million. In a predawn raid, The FBI and New York City police rescued Samuel Bronfman from a Brooklyn apartment, where he was found with his hands bound and his eyes and mouth covered with adhesive tape.

In contrast to her hard-driving and mercurial former husband, Ms. Bronfman led a quiet life of charitable endeavors.

Living in Washington since 1985, she gave to causes including the arts, education, and victims of domestic abuse. The city’s Jewish Community Center named its gallery in her honor.

Among other organizations and institutions, she gave to International Planned Parenthood, the Visiting Nurse Association of New York, and the New York Public Library.

Ann Margaret Loeb was born in New York City. Her father, John Langeloth Loeb Sr., was a Wall Street investment banker whose company was a predecessor of Shearson Lehman/American Express.

Her mother, the former Frances Lehman, was a scion of the Lehman Brothers banking firm. Her parents were major benefactors of Harvard and other colleges.

In 1950, Ann Loeb graduated from the private Rosemary Hall girls school in Connecticut. She attended Bennington College in Vermont before marrying Bronfman in 1953.

The union fostered many business ventures, with the Bronfmans using the Loeb, Rhoades & Co. investment firm to buy swaths of land and diversify its holdings into the entertainment and petroleum industries.

She leaves five children, Samuel of Atherton, Calif., Edgar Jr. of Manhattan, chairman of the Warner Music Group, Holly Bronfman Lev of Charlottesville, Va., Matthew of Westchester County, N.Y., and Adam of Park City, Utah; a sister; two brothers, including her twin; 25 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.