How she made her pile

Leona Helmsley, Property tycoon and 'Queen of mean'

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Who is she?The 86-year-old hotelier famously quipped that 'only the little people pay taxes' - before being sent down for 18 months for tax evasion. She's worth about $1 billion.

How did she make her millions?She married Harry Helmsley, the multi-millionaire real-estate magnate whose assets included the Empire State Building. Leona became famous in the '70s for her role in the Helmsley hotel ads, in which she played a demanding royal; hence her nickname, the 'Queen of Mean'. Harry died in 1997, leaving her his property portfolio, the largest single holding of real estate in New York. She began selling it off soon after.

The secret of her success? The Queen of Mean is an apt epithet for Helmsley the manager. She has a reputation as a short-tempered, axe-swinging tyrant.

But Helmsley seems resigned to her negative public image: after being defeated in an $11 million (later reduced to $554,000) employee discrimination case in 2003, she asked: 'What am I going to lose next, my virginity?'

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