Howard J. Rubenstein, Public Relations Guru to New York's Rich and Famous, Dies at 88

Howard Rubenstein
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Time Inc

Howard J. Rubenstein

Rubenstein's clients included the Who's Who of New York society including Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and George Steinbrenner.

Howard J. Rubenstein, the public relations guru who helped protect the image of New York's rich and famous including the likes of Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and George Steinbrenner, has died. He was 88.

A spokeswoman confirmed Rubenstein's death to The New York Times, although no cause was given.

Through Rubenstein Associates, the company he founded and presided over for almost 70 years, Rubenstein's roster of clients included numerous boldface names from the worlds of politics, celebrity, media and Wall Street finance but also a raft of esteemed New York institutions such as Columbia University, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic and the New York Yankees.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on Feb. 3, 1932, Howard Joseph Rubenstein was the son of Sam, a police reporter, and Ada, a homemaker. He had an older sister named June. After Midwood High School, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor's degree in economics in 1953. Rubenstein then briefly attended Harvard Law School but dropped out after two months.

He established Rubenstein Associates in 1954, with the company initially based out of his parent's kitchen. Rubenstein's early clients were local Brooklyn politicians running for seats in the New York Assembly but he graduated to pols running for the state legislature and eventually the governor's mansion.

By the 1970s, Rubenstein had begun to represent the rich and famous of New York society, including real estate magnates Fred Trump and the billionaire Rudin brothers. Fred's son Donald became a key client, particularly during the latter's high profile and messy divorce to Ivana Trump in 1990. Rubenstein advised Donald Trump to play down Ivana's role in the Trump Organization which led to a $20 million settlement, far less than the real estate mogul's supposed net worth at that time. He also represented George Steinbrenner, the volatile owner of Yankees, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and also advised Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York.

Rubenstein's longevity at the top echelons of his industry owed much to his deep and overlapping connections in politics, media, celebrity and finance, and he became something of a New York power broker himself. His business was extremely lucrative, The Times reported that Rubenstein Associates could charge corporate clients as much as $10,000 a month, with revenue estimates ranging from $30 million to $75 million, a year, with Rubenstein, personally, said to earn $4 million to $7 million a year.

Rubenstein is survived by his wife Amy Forman along with three children, Roni, Richard, and Steven, and seven grandchildren.