Public relations veteran Howard J. Rubenstein died Tuesday aged 88
Public relations veteran Howard J. Rubenstein, who for decades polished and protected the images of New York celebrities and power brokers from George Steinbrenner to Donald Trump, has died. He was 88.
Rubenstein died Tuesday at home ‘in peace and in no pain,’ his son Steven Rubenstein wrote on the website of the firm that bears the family’s name. No cause of death was given.
Howard Rubenstein founded the Rubenstein Public Relations agency in 1954.
Polite and soft-spoken, he was the antithesis of the stereotypical curt and fast-talking New York City press agent. But his hundreds of clients – from high-brow cultural institutions to politicians – attested to his clout.
Clients included the Metropolitan Opera, the Archdiocese of New York, media magnate Rupert Murdoch and the late Yankees owner Steinbrenner.
Howard Rubenstein (left) is seen with Rupert Murdoch and former AOL Time Warner CEO Richard D. Parsons at a 2003 dinner at the Waldorf Astoria
Howard Rubenstein, former NYC mayor David N. Dinkins, Tuskegee Airman Roscoe C. Brown Jr. and former New York Governor David A. Paterson attend a 2008 event at The Pierre Hotel NYC honoring the US military
Rubenstein also worked with Trump during the future president’s highly publicized divorce from Ivana Trump in 1990.
With Steinbrenner, Rubenstein had his hands full as the public spokesman for ‘The Boss,’ whose harsh treatment of players and managers became frequent tabloid fodder.
The Yankees honored Rubenstein with an on-field ceremony at Yankee Stadium in 2014 to celebrate his 60th anniversary in PR.
‘Howard´s contributions to the Yankees took many forms over the years, and his positive effect on the course of our franchise cannot be understated,’ read a statement from the Yankees and the Steinbrenner family.
‘An expert communicator and master of his craft, he was an adept and thoughtful listener no matter how challenging the issue or how tense the situation,’ the statement added.
PR Mogul Howard Rubenstein and New York Yankee Derek Jeter celebrate Rubenstein and his firm’s 60th Anniversary at Yankee Stadium on June 3, 2014 in New York City
Howard Rubenstein, George Steinbrenner and Amy Rubenstein are seen in 2004
In politics, Rubenstein worked with both Democrats and Republicans, befriending every New York mayor, governor and senator over the past 50 years.
Rubenstein’s trademark approach to crisis management was to issue simple statements or apologies, followed by silence to let the scandal blow over.
One of his success came with client Marv Albert, the sports broadcaster whose 1997 guilty plea to misdemeanor assault exposed lurid allegations about liaisons with a transvestite and professional dominatrix.
Albert gave a news conference and then did a blitz of talk shows, issuing forceful denials, and then refused to talk about the matter further.
After a hiatus, Albert returned to broadcasting and has enjoyed a successful career.
Jared Kushner and Howard Rubenstein attend The New York Observer’s 100 Most Powerful People in New York Real Estate at The Harmonie Club on June 13, 2011 in New York City
Dick Cheney and Howard Rubenstein attend 2013 Federal Law Enforcement Foundation Luncheon at The Waldorf Astoria on November 22, 2013 in New York City
Howard Rubenstein and his son Steven, who took over the family business, attend the Commercial Observer 2016 Power Gala at Park Hyatt New York in Manhattan
Rubenstein was born in Brooklyn, on February 3, 1932.
He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in economics and dropped out of Harvard Law School after two months.
Uncertain what to do with his life, he took a suggestion from his father, a police reporter, to work as a publicist.
Rubenstein initially based his fledgling business in his parent’s kitchen, but soon rented an office after his mother refused to answer the phone by saying ‘Rubenstein Associates.’
He earned a law degree from St. Johns by taking night classes, and worked briefly as counsel for the House Judiciary Committee before returned to work as a publicist.
He is survived by his wife Amy and three children, Roni, Richard, and Steven Rubenstein, who is president of the family firm.
A private graveside service is planned for Wednesday.
Rubenstein (left) fends off a mob of reporters as client Rubert Murdoch enters the newsroom of the New York Post in 1993, after a bankruptcy judge granted Murdoch control of the paper