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Howard Rubinstein, public relations veteran, dies at 88

Public relations expert Howard Rubenstein attends the Time

Public relations expert Howard Rubenstein attends the Time 100 gala celebrating the 100 most influential people, at the Time Warner Center on May 4, 2010, in Manhattan. Credit: AP/Evan Agostini

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 his Manhattan 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 highbrow cultural institutions to politicians — attested to his clout.

Gary Lewi, a Syosset resident and a managing director at the Rubenstein agency, said in an email Tuesday: "While he was modest and self effacing, he was unyielding about the firm's adherence to a standard of ethics that raised the bar for the entire public relations industry and one he continued to advance throughout his professional and personal life."

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.

"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 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.

A private graveside service was Wednesday.

With Newsday staff

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