(World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman speaks in New York, October 23, 1996. REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Billionaire businessman and philanthropist Edgar Bronfman, the chairman of the Seagram Company and long-serving president of the World Jewish Congress, died at his New York home on Saturday aged 84.

Montreal-born Bronfman took control of the Seagram empire from his father, Samuel Bronfman who had founded the liquor company in 1924. He then expanded its operations, acquiring Tropicana and moving Seagram into the chemicals business by making it DuPont’s largest minority shareholder.

The son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, he was also president of the World Jewish Congress from 1981 until 2007. During his tenure, the U.S. Congress increased pressure on the then-Soviet Union to loosen emigration restrictions on Jews living there.

Bronfman also pressed Congress’ efforts to expose the Nazi past of former U.N. Secretary-General and later president of Austria, Kurt Waldheim, according to the New York Times.