Howard J. Rubenstein, Public Relations Impresario, Dies at 88

Howard J. Rubenstein, who softened existence’s blows and polished the tarnished pictures of the wealthy, the well-known and the mistaken for greater than 65 years in changing into New York’s pre-eminent public members of the family impresario, died on Tuesday at his house in New york. He used to be 88.

A spokeswoman, Nancy Haberman, showed the loss of life. No motive used to be given.

In a occupation frequently looked with skepticism, Mr. Rubenstein, the founding chairman and president of Rubenstein Buddies, used to be often referred to as a spin physician, a charlatan or worse. However with a little bit assist from his buddies within the information media, he publicized the triumphs of many achievers, and when crises struck celebrities, politicians, firms or cultural establishments, he used to be a fixer of selection, referred to as in at a second’s realize to regulate the wear and tear and repair reputations.

His loads of purchasers had been a few of the best-known names on the town: Donald J. Trump, Rupert Murdoch, the Yankees proprietor George M. Steinbrenner third, Columbia College, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, Wall Boulevard tycoons and constellations of entertainers, civic and spiritual leaders, their signed footage lining the partitions of Rubenstein Buddies in a midtown New york skyscraper.

His industry used to be profitable. Company purchasers frequently paid retainers of $10,000 a month, whilst the most important paid $750,000 or extra a 12 months, in line with senior mates of Mr. Rubenstein. He didn’t publicly speak about his corporate’s billing practices or revenues. Estimates ranged from $30 million to $75 million in revenues a 12 months. In the end, they made Mr. Rubenstein rich. He used to be mentioned to earn $four million to $7 million a 12 months.

With gentle manners and a cushy voice, Mr. Rubenstein used to be the antithesis of the swaggering press agent caricatured in movies like “Candy Scent of Luck” and denigrated in newsrooms as a “flack” or “mouthpiece.” He didn’t inhabit nightclubs for gossip. He lived on 5th Street overlooking Central Park, the place even in his 60s and 70s he favored to jog day by day. He dined frequently with company, cultural and political leaders.

He hired loads of other folks, preached ethics in speeches and articles on public members of the family, and inspired purchasers as diplomatic and faithful, even if some competitors accused him of the use of underhanded ways. He were a pal of each and every New York mayor, governor and United States senator because the 1970s, and made seamless nonpartisan transitions between Democrats and Republicans.

“It doesn’t subject who it’s,” former Mayor Edward I. Koch as soon as defined. “It may well be Caligula.”

Certainly, along with his huge contacts in govt, industry, the scoop media and the humanities, Mr. Rubenstein used to be frequently extra energy dealer than public members of the family guy, making connections amongst other folks and establishments for mutual get advantages. He steered politicians, devised company methods to form public opinion, represented actual property pursuits and taken leaders of industrial, govt and unions in combination to make offers.

His energy lay hidden in numerous favors, huge and small. However his maximum visual inventory in business used to be hassle — a marital combat, a celeb blurting a racist observation, a drunken toot. His custom designed rehabilitation plans frequently concerned easy public admissions or apologies, then silence to include the imbroglio. The duty, he mentioned, used to be no longer retaining a lid on dangerous exposure. It used to be controlling its go with the flow, tone and quantity. He cautioned in opposition to mendacity, even if his selective “truths” preferred purchasers: Folks had been by no means fired; they left to hunt new alternatives.

“In case you have a disaster, you first have to invite, what’s the suitable factor to do and say,” he informed The New York Occasions in 1995. “Now not what sort of spin are we able to placed on, however what’s the suitable factor to do. You don’t let the details dribble out. From time to time you do it by way of maintaining a information convention. Different occasions you do it with a written remark, relying on how the buyer feels or the power of the buyer to habits himself or herself in a tricky scenario.”

For the sports activities broadcaster Marv Albert, a tricky scenario arose in 1997, when his dalliances with a cross-dresser and a prostitute-dominatrix had been uncovered by way of his in charge plea to a misdemeanor attack fee for biting a girl all through a sexual come across. After conferring with Mr. Rubenstein, he submitted to a information convention and a weeklong excursion of the controversy presentations — Larry King, David Letterman, Katie Couric and Barbara Walters — elaborating his denials. Then he refused to speak about it anymore. Virtually not anything new in regards to the subject emerged, excluding a belief that Mr. Albert had forcefully defended himself, and after a duration of withdrawal and rehabilitation, his occupation resumed just about intact.

In 1996, the talk-show host Kathy Lee Gifford used to be stuck in a scandal after a human rights group reported that kid sweatshop exertions in Honduras used to be being exploited to fabricate a clothes line in her identify. The Rubenstein prescription in her case used to be deflection and rehabilitation. Ms. Gifford went on nationwide tv to mention she used to be no longer inquisitive about manufacturing facility control processes, then referred to as for investigations and campaigned for brand spanking new rules in opposition to sweatshop prerequisites. She even seemed on the White Area with President Invoice Clinton to strengthen tasks in opposition to kid exertions abuses.

Howard Joseph Rubenstein used to be born in Brooklyn on Feb. three, 1932, to Samuel and Ada (Sall) Rubenstein. His father used to be a police reporter for the Same old Information Affiliation, which served New York Town papers, and later for The New York Bring in Tribune. Howard and his sister, June, grew up within the Bensonhurst phase. He graduated from Midwood Top Faculty and in 1953 from the College of Pennsylvania, the place he majored in economics.

At his mom’s urging, he implemented to the entire Ivy League regulation faculties and used to be authorised at Harvard. However he dropped out after two months and went house, unsure what to do. He declined his father’s thought of a duplicate boy’s activity however used to be extra receptive to every other. Like some newshounds then, his father did a little bit public members of the family paintings at the facet, and he taught Howard how one can write information releases and pitch tale concepts to newshounds. He additionally helped in finding his first shopper, the Menorah House and Clinic for the Elderly and Infirm.

Howard arrange store on the kitchen desk in 1954. However after his mom refused to respond to the house’s phone with the greeting “Rubenstein Buddies,” he rented an administrative center. His subsequent shopper used to be Vito Battista, an anti-tax Republican whose perennial quest for administrative center ultimately landed him a New York Meeting seat. Mr. Rubenstein rented a camel to plug Mr. Battista’s mayoral candidacy and draped it with an indication pronouncing its again could be damaged by way of every other town tax.

Nonetheless drawn by way of the speculation of being a legal professional, he took night time categories at St. John’s College and earned a regulation stage in 1959. Via Consultant Emanuel Celler, a Brooklyn Democrat who used to be chairman of the Area Judiciary Committee, Mr. Rubenstein was the panel’s assistant suggest, however give up after six months to renew his public members of the family occupation.

In 1959, he married Amy Forman. She survives him, at the side of 3 youngsters, Roni, Richard, and Steven Rubenstein, and 7 grandchildren. David, every other kid, died in 1971 on the age of nine.

Mr. Rubenstein persisted to be inquisitive about his industry lately, however his son Steven oversaw the day by day working of Rubenstein, as the corporate is referred to now, as its president. Richard Rubenstein based his personal company, Rubenstein Public Members of the family, in 1987.

Mr. Rubenstein, nominally a Democrat, signed up a bunch of politicians as purchasers, a lot of them — like Abraham D. Beame, Hugh Carey and Stanley Steingut — beginning careers that may result in seats of energy in Town Corridor, the Governor’s Mansion and the State Legislature. Via actual property contacts he recruited builders like Fred Trump (Donald’s father) and Lewis and Jack Rudin.

Through the 1970s he used to be representing loads of the town’s maximum outstanding other folks and organizations. He additionally served global celebrities, together with Sarah Ferguson, the divorced Duchess of York. Infrequently he needed to drop purchasers — significantly 4 state companies after Mr. Carey used to be elected governor in 1974, and the Brooklyn Museum of Artwork in 1999 after his good friend Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani condemned an show off there. In each circumstances he used to be stuck in a struggle and deemed his friendship and loyalty to the officeholders to be the better passion.

The 1990 breakup of Donald and Ivana Trump put a conflict of public members of the family competitors on show, every with a watch on the base line. John Scanlon, referred to as an competitive disaster supervisor, portrayed Mrs. Trump as an integral a part of the Trump industry empire. Mr. Trump, coached by way of Mr. Rubenstein, performed down her obligations. So who gained? Her agreement crowned $20 million. However Mr. Trump’s internet price on the time used to be estimated at $1.7 billion to $four billion.

Mr. Steinbrenner, whose harsh remedy of Yankee avid gamers and executives used to be a publicist’s nightmare, frequently left Mr. Rubenstein resorting to “no remark.” Beginning a decade earlier than Mr. Steinbrenner’s loss of life in 2010, the publicist orchestrated a tactical retreat for “the Boss.” Journalists mentioned he used to be shielding an getting old guy from public view, however Mr. Rubenstein introduced a extra benign interpretation, pronouncing Mr. Steinbrenner’s diminished profile “simply comes with adulthood — he simply doesn’t relish exposure the way in which he used to.”

Every other tricky shopper used to be Leona Helmsley, the lodge and actual property multi-millionaire who used to be convicted of source of revenue tax evasion in 1989. She was an emblem of conceitedness when a former maid quoted her in testimony as pronouncing, “Best the little other folks pay taxes.” Mr. Rubenstein visited Mrs. Helmsley in jail, and after she died in 2007 and left $12 million to her canine, Hassle, a Maltese, prompting proceedings and loss of life threats in opposition to the puppy, he was a spokesman for Hassle, too, as passion peaked in its lifetime of luxurious.

“The canine is being neatly cared for in an undisclosed location,” he mentioned tactfully.

After Mr. Trump was president, Mr. Rubenstein distanced himself from him. “Whilst I haven’t labored with him for greater than 20 years,” he informed in 2017, “it used to be transparent even again then that he used to be a extremely astute communicator.”

Alex Traub contributed reporting.

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