Howard Rubenstein, the public relations expert who guided the paths of such high-profile clients as George Steinbrenner, Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump, has died at his home in Manhattan. He was 88, and no cause of death was given.
“It is with great sadness that I share the news that my father, Howard J. Rubenstein, passed away today after 88 years of what can only be described as a big, full life,” his son, Steven Rubenstein, said in a statement posted on Twitter. “My father loved his family, his work, this agency, our city, and of course, the New York Yankees. While I loved so much about him, what made him truly special was how he embraced the world with vigor, confidence, and optimism for what lay ahead.”
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Howard Rubenstein had a uniquely consistent role in the evolution of New York City, bringing a low-key, steady shrewdness to a business known for ego and caprice. In the 1970s, which proved a defining period for both the city and the firm, Rubenstein made a series of moves that would sustain his reputation for decades. He began working with Steinbrenner after the Ohio shipbuilding executive bought the Yankees from CBS and began a run of dominance in the baseball world and beyond. He also connected with Murdoch when the media titan had bought the New York Post, an early piece of what would become a media empire.
Rubenstein also in that period co-founded the Association for a Better New York as business and civic leaders were working to rescue the city from fiscal crisis and the brink of insolvency. While Rubenstein has had long-term ties with A-list clients including David Letterman and Jerry Seinfeld, the firm is diversified, with practices dedicated to real estate, finance, cultural institutions, hospitals and events. While its work spans the globe, it has always had offices only in New York.
Many clients have turned to Rubenstein for help through crises large and small, self-generated or otherwise. Trump relied on Rubenstein during his days when he was known as a real estate developer and tabloid fixture, notably during his acrimonious divorce from Ivana Trump, but the company did not have a role in his transition to politics. In a 2017 interview with PRWeek.com, Rubenstein said at that point he had not worked with Trump for 20 years.
New York politics was a foundational part of Rubenstein’s career practically from the time he set up shop in the 1950s. Over the years, he represented countless figures who would end up in high office, often counseling them from early stages in their careers.
Steven Rubenstein and his brother, Richard, followed their father into PR. In 1987, Richard Rubenstein started Rubenstein Public Relations, which has operated largely with autonomy from the firm founded by Howard, which initially was called Rubenstein Associates and is now simply Rubenstein. While Howard Rubenstein continued working each day into his 80s, over time Steven Rubenstein took over day-to-day operations of the company.
Along with his sons, the elder Rubenstein is survived by his wife, Amy; daughter, Roni; and seven grandchildren.