Leona Mindy Roberts Helmsley died on August 20, 2007, at the age of 87, he was an American businesswoman.
Born Lena Mindy Rosenthal in Marbletown, New York on July 4, 1920, to Polish Jewish immigrants, Ida (née Popkin), a homemaker, and Morris Rosenthal, a hat maker.
Her family moved to Brooklyn while she was still a girl, and moved six more times before settling in Manhattan.
She dropped out of Abraham Lincoln High School to seek her fortune.
In a short time, she changed her name several times—from Lee Roberts, Mindy Roberts and Leni Roberts.
Eventually, she decided on Leona Mindy Roberts.
She legally changed her surname to Roberts.
Leona was a condominium broker in 1968 when she met and began her involvement with the then-married multi-millionaire real estate entrepreneur Harry Helmsley.
In 1970, she joined one of Harry Helmsley’s brokerage firms—Brown, Harris, Stevens—as a senior vice-president.
At that time, she was already a millionaire in her own right.
Harry Helmsley divorced his wife of 33 years and married Leona on April 8, 1972.
Leona’s marriage to Harry may well have saved her career.
Late in 1971, several of Leona’s tenants sued her for forcing the tenants of one of the apartments she managed to buy condominiums.
They won, and Leona was forced not only to compensate the tenants, but to give them three-year leases.
He later concentrated on the hotel industry, building The Helmsley Palace on Madison Avenue.
Together the Helmsleys built a real estate empire in New York City including 230 Park Avenue, the Empire State Building, the Tudor City apartment complex on the East Side of Manhattan, and Helmsley-Spear, their management and leasing business.
The couple also developed properties that included the Park Lane Hotel (New York), the New York Helmsley Hotel, the Helmsley Palace Hotel, and hotels in Florida and other states.
By the beginning of 1989, twenty-three hotels in the chain were directly controlled by Leona Helmsley.
In her will, she left $12 million to her dog, a Maltese named Trouble, while denying two of her grandchildren “for reasons that are known to them.”
In 2008, a judge awarded the disowned grandchildren $6 million, and cut Trouble’s share to $2 million.
The grandchildren have charged Helmsley was not mentally competent when she signed her will.
According to the popular “People’s Book of Lists,” a Londoner willed his fortune to his sons “on the strict condition that they would not inherit the legacy if they became members of Parliament or undertook any form of public office, speculate on stock exchange, convert to any other religion or even marry outside the Jewish faith.”
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.