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

Howard J. Rubenstein, who softened life’s blows and polished the tarnished visuals of the abundant, the famed and the flawed for far more than 65 yrs in getting New York’s pre-eminent general public relations impresario, died on Tuesday at his dwelling in Manhattan. He was 88.

A spokeswoman, Nancy Haberman, confirmed the loss of life. No trigger was offered.

In a career generally regarded with skepticism, Mr. Rubenstein, the founding chairman and president of Rubenstein Associates, was from time to time called a spin physician, a charlatan or worse. But with a minor help from his mates in the news media, he publicized the triumphs of numerous achievers, and when crises struck celebs, politicians, organizations or cultural establishments, he was a fixer of option, known as in at a moment’s observe to command the injury and restore reputations.

His hundreds of customers had been amongst the most effective-recognised names in city: Donald J. Trump, Rupert Murdoch, the late Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner 3rd, Columbia College, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic and constellations of entertainers, civic and spiritual leaders, and Wall Road tycoons, their signed photos lining the partitions of Rubenstein Associates in a midtown Manhattan skyscraper.

His organization was rewarding. Corporate shoppers normally paid out retainers of $10,000 a thirty day period, while the premier paid out $750,000 or additional a year, according to senior associates of Mr. Rubenstein. He did not publicly go over his company’s billing techniques or revenues. Estimates ranged from $30 million to $75 million in revenues a 12 months. In any situation, they made Mr. Rubenstein rich. He was mentioned to gain $4 million to $7 million a year.

With moderate manners and a tender voice, Mr. Rubenstein was the antithesis of the swaggering push agent caricatured in movies like “The Sweet Scent of Success” and denigrated in newsrooms as a “flack” or “mouthpiece.” He did not inhabit nightclubs for gossip. He lived on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park, the place even in his 60s and 70s he favored to jog day-to-day. He dined typically with company, cultural and political leaders.

He utilized hundreds of folks, preached ethics in speeches and articles or blog posts on general public relations, and impressed clientele as diplomatic and trusted, while some rivals accused him of using underhanded ways. He experienced been a close friend of each New York mayor, governor and United States senator considering the fact that the 1970s, and produced seamless nonpartisan transitions concerning Democrats and Republicans.

“It does not matter who it is,” former Mayor Edward I. Koch at the time discussed. “It could be Caligula.”

Certainly, with his broad contacts in governing administration, business, the news media and the arts, Mr. Rubenstein was usually extra electricity broker than community relations gentleman, making connections among the people today and establishments for mutual profit. He encouraged politicians, devised company methods to form general public opinion, represented serious estate pursuits and brought leaders of organization, govt and unions collectively to make bargains.

His electric power lay concealed in many favors, large and little. But his most noticeable stock in trade was difficulty — a marital fight, a star blurting a racist remark, a drunken toot. His tailored rehabilitation plans typically concerned straightforward public admissions or apologies, then silence to incorporate the imbroglio. The process, he mentioned, was not maintaining a lid on poor publicity. It was managing its move, tone and quantity. He cautioned versus lying, though his selective “truths” favored shoppers: People were being never ever fired they remaining to find new prospects.

“When you have a disaster, you to start with have to check with, what is the right point to do and say,” he told The New York Occasions in 1995. “Not what variety of spin can we put on, but what’s the appropriate detail to do. You do not allow the information dribble out. Sometimes you do it by holding a news conference. Other times you do it with a penned statement, depending on how the customer feels or the ability of the shopper to perform himself or herself in a hard predicament.”

For the sports broadcaster Marv Albert, a rough condition arose in 1997, when his dalliances with a cross-dresser and a prostitute-dominatrix have been exposed by his guilty plea to a misdemeanor assault charge for biting a female during a sexual experience. Soon after conferring with Mr. Rubenstein, he submitted to a information meeting and a weeklong tour of the converse displays — Larry King, David Letterman, Katie Couric and Barbara Walters — elaborating his denials. Then he refused to discuss about it any longer. Almost almost nothing new about the matter emerged, except a perception that Mr. Albert experienced forcefully defended himself, and right after a period of time of withdrawal and rehabilitation, his profession resumed nearly intact.

In 1996, the chat-clearly show host Kathy Lee Gifford was caught in a scandal soon after a human legal rights organization reported that boy or girl sweatshop labor in Honduras was becoming exploited to manufacture a outfits line in her name. The Rubenstein prescription in her situation was deflection and rehabilitation. Ms. Gifford went on nationwide television to say she was not concerned in factory administration procedures, then named for investigations and campaigned for new rules from sweatshop problems. She even appeared at the White Dwelling with President Monthly bill Clinton to support initiatives versus baby labor abuses.

Howard Joseph Rubenstein was born in Brooklyn on Feb. 3, 1932, to Samuel and Ada (Sall) Rubenstein. His father was a law enforcement reporter for the Common News Affiliation, which served New York Metropolis papers, and afterwards for The New York Herald Tribune. Howard and his sister, June, grew up in the Bensonhurst area. He graduated from Midwood Higher Faculty and in 1953 from the College of Pennsylvania, wherever he majored in economics.

At his mother’s urging, he utilized to all the Ivy League regulation educational facilities and was acknowledged at Harvard. But he dropped out just after two months and went house, unsure what to do. He declined his father’s idea of a copy boy’s job but was extra receptive to one more. Like some reporters then, his father did a very little public relations work on the facet, and he taught Howard how to publish news releases and pitch story suggestions to reporters. He also aided discover his 1st shopper, the Menorah Property and Hospital for the Aged and Infirm.

Howard set up shop at the kitchen area table in 1954. But soon after his mom refused to solution the home’s phone with the greeting “Rubenstein Associates,” he rented an office. His up coming client was Vito Battista, an anti-tax Republican whose perennial quest for office environment finally landed him a New York Assembly seat. Mr. Rubenstein rented a camel to plug Mr. Battista’s mayoral candidacy and draped it with a signal stating its again would be damaged by a different town tax.

Still drawn by the idea of becoming a attorney, he took evening courses at St. John’s University and gained a legislation diploma in 1959. Via Consultant Emanuel Celler, a Brooklyn Democrat who was chairman of the Household Judiciary Committee, Mr. Rubenstein turned the panel’s assistant counsel, but quit following 6 months to resume his general public relations career.

In 1959, he married Amy Forman. She survives him, together with three small children, Roni, Richard, and Steven Rubenstein, and 7 grandchildren. David, one more kid, died in 1971 at the age of 9.

Mr. Rubenstein continued to be included in his company in current many years, but his son Steven oversaw the working day-to-working day jogging of Rubenstein, as the organization is now acknowledged, as its president. Richard Rubenstein established his possess company, Rubenstein Public Relations, in 1987.

Mr. Rubenstein, nominally a Democrat, signed up a host of politicians as purchasers, quite a few of them — like Abraham D. Beame, Hugh Carey and Stanley Steingut — commencing professions that would direct to seats of power in Metropolis Hall, the Governor’s Mansion and the State Legislature. Via authentic estate contacts he recruited developers like Fred Trump (Donald’s father) and Lewis and Jack Rudin.

By the 1970s he was representing hundreds of the city’s most outstanding people and businesses. He also served worldwide superstars, together with Sarah Ferguson, the divorced Duchess of York. Occasionally he experienced to drop shoppers — notably 4 state organizations immediately after Mr. Carey was elected governor in 1974, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1999 immediately after his buddy Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani condemned an exhibit there. In each scenarios he was caught in a conflict and deemed his friendship and loyalty to the officeholders to be the better desire.

The 1990 breakup of Donald and Ivana Trump put a clash of public relations rivals on show, just about every with an eye on the base line. John Scanlon, known as an intense crisis manager, portrayed Mrs. Trump as an integral component of the Trump enterprise empire. Mr. Trump, coached by Mr. Rubenstein, played down her duties. So who received? Her settlement topped $20 million. But Mr. Trump’s net value at the time was estimated at $1.7 billion to $4 billion.

Mr. Steinbrenner, whose harsh therapy of Yankee players and supervisors was a publicist’s nightmare, typically still left Mr. Rubenstein resorting to “no remark.” Setting up a ten years in advance of Mr. Steinbrenner’s death in 2010, the publicist orchestrated a tactical retreat for “the Boss.” Reporters explained he was shielding an getting older gentleman from general public check out, but Mr. Rubenstein provided a a lot more benign interpretation, saying Mr. Steinbrenner’s reduced profile “just arrives with maturity — he just does not relish publicity the way he made use of to.”

One more complicated consumer was Leona Helmsley, the hotel and authentic estate magnate who was convicted of money tax evasion in 1989. She became a image of vanity when a former maid quoted her in testimony as stating, “Only the minor persons pay back taxes.” Mr. Rubenstein visited Mrs. Helmsley in jail, and right after she died in 2007 and remaining $12 million to her pet, Trouble, a Maltese, prompting lawsuits and death threats from the pet, he grew to become a spokesman for Hassle, much too, as desire peaked in its existence of luxurious.

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

After Mr. Trump grew to become president, Mr. Rubenstein distanced himself for him. “While I haven’t worked with him for far more than 20 a long time,” he informed in 2017, “it was obvious even again then that he was a really astute communicator.”

Alex Traub contributed reporting.

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