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New York public relations impresario Howard Rubenstein dies at 88

Veteran press agent known for representation of Big Apple’s celebrities and power brokers, from Donald Trump to Jerry Seinfeld to the NY Yankees baseball team

Public relations expert Howard Rubenstein attends the TIME 100 gala at the Time Warner Center, May 4, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)
Public relations expert Howard Rubenstein attends the TIME 100 gala at the Time Warner Center, May 4, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

NEW YORK — Public relations veteran Howard 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 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 company’s hundreds of clients — from high-brow cultural institutions to politicians — attested to his clout.

Rubenstein has represented the Metropolitan Opera, the Archdiocese of New York, MoMA, Saturday Night Live, Jerry Seinfeld, J.P. Morgan, Rockefeller Center owner Tishman Speyer, media magnate Rupert Murdoch and the late Yankees owner Steinbrenner. Rubenstein worked with Trump during the future president’s highly publicized divorce from Ivana Trump in 1990.

Publicist Howard J. Rubenstein, second from left, poses for a photo with his wife and children during a pre-game ceremony before the New York Yankees baseball game against the Oakland Athletics at Yankee Stadium in New York, June 3, 2014. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

“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. “He was a self-effacing visionary and trailblazer who could often see what others missed.”

Rubenstein, who is Jewish, was born in Brooklyn, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and dropped out of Harvard Law School. He started work as a publicist at the suggestion of his father, a news reporter, and initially based his fledgling business in his parent’s kitchen.

Survivors include his wife and three children, Roni, Richard, and Steven Rubenstein, who is president of the firm.

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