Brooklyn Boro

PR genius Rubenstein dies at 88; learned his trade in Brooklyn

December 31, 2020 Associated Press

Brooklyn-born 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.

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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 and grew up in Bensonhurst, on 74th Street near Bay Parkway, graduated from Midwood High School, 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 started out by writing press releases for the Menorah Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Care, now on Oriental Boulevard. 

He initially based his fledgling business in his parents’ kitchen, but moved out after his parents took a dim view of him answering the phone with “Rubenstein Associates,” according to The New York Times.

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 He also enrolled in St. John’s University Law School, at that time in Downtown Brooklyn, according to the Times, and graduated in 1959 at the top of his class. While he took a job in the legal field, it only lasted six months and then he went back to PR.  Also in 1959, he married his Amy Forman, whose family owned Peter Luger steakhouse, according to a 2007 article in the New Yorker.

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

A private graveside service took place Wednesday.

Additional material by Raanan Geberer


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