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Last Updated: Monday, 20 August 2007, 18:33 GMT 19:33 UK
US property tycoon Helmsley dies
Leona Helmsley. Photo: 2003
Forbes named Mrs Helmsley the world's 369th richest person in 2007
US property tycoon Leona Helmsley, who was famously quoted as saying "only the little people pay taxes", and was later jailed for tax evasion, has died at 87.

Mrs Helmsley died of heart failure at her summer home in Greenwich, Connecticut, her publicist said.

Mrs Helmsley and her late husband Harry had run a multi-billion dollar real estate business that included managing New York's Empire State Building.

In 1992, she was convicted of tax evasion, spending 21 months in prison.

'Great businesswoman'

The Helmsleys - who also owned some of New York's finest hotels - were accused of listing personal purchases as business expenses.

A judge ruled that Mr Helmsley was not mentally competent to stand trial, but Mrs Helmsley was convicted of evading $1.2m in taxes.

During the trial, Mrs Helmsley's former housekeeper famously testified that she had heard Mrs Helmsley say: "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes."

Mrs Helmsley denied ever saying that.

However, she was noted for her tough management style and became widely known in the US media as "the queen of mean".

In announcing Mrs Helmsley's death, her publicist Howard Rubenstein said he was "very proud to represent her for so many years".

"Leona was a great businesswoman in her own right who created a tremendous brand and success with Helmsley Hotels and was a wonderful partner and wife to Harry Helmsley," he said.

"She was extremely generous as a philanthropist and she gave tens of millions of dollars to charity right up until the last months of her life," Mr Rubenstein said.

'Magical life'

Mrs Helmsley was a former model and a twice-divorced real estate agent when she met Harry Helmsley, a multi-millionaire real estate investor. They married in 1972.

Mr Helmsley died in 1997, aged 87, leaving his wife his entire fortune.

"My fairy tale is over. I lived a magical life with Harry," Mrs Helmsley said after his death.

She is survived by her brother, four grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

Forbes magazine ranked her the 369th richest person in the world this year, with an estimated fortune of $2.5bn (1.25bn).


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