Leona Helmsley, the cutthroat hotel magnate whose title as the "queen of mean" was sealed during a tax evasion case in which she was quoted as snarling "only little people pay taxes," died Monday at age 87.
Helmsley died of heart failure at her summer home in Greenwich, Conn., said her publicist, Howard Rubenstein.
Already experienced in real estate before her marriage, Helmsley helped her husband Harry run a $5 billion empire that included managing the Empire State Building. She became a household name in 1989 when she was tried for tax evasion. The sensational trial included testimony from disgruntled employees who said she terrorized both the menial and the executive help at her homes and hotels.
That image of Helmsley as the "queen of mean" was sealed when a former housekeeper testified that she heard Helmsley say: "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes."
She denied having said it, but the words followed her for the rest of her life.
Helmsley clearly enjoyed the luxury of the couple's private fortune, flying the globe in their 100-seat jet with a bedroom suite. The couple's residences included a nine-room penthouse with a swimming pool overlooking Central Park atop their own Park Lane Hotel; an $8 million estate in Connecticut; a condo in Palm Beach; and a mountaintop hideaway near Phoenix.
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