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Hotelier Leona Helmsley, 'Queen of Mean,' Dies at 87

Leona Helmsley, the hotelier who went to prison as a tax cheat and was reviled as the "queen of mean," died Monday at age 87.

Billionaire real estate heiress Leona Helmsley
Doug Kanter / AP
Billionaire real estate heiress Leona Helmsley

Helmsley died of heart failure at her summer home in Greenwich, Conn., said her publicist, Howard Rubenstein.

Helmsley and her husband, Harry, ran a $5 billion real estate empire that included managing the Empire State Building. She was tried in 1989 on tax evasion charges in a sensational trial that included testimony from disgruntled employees who said she terrorized both menial and executive help at her homes and hotels.

Her image was sealed when a former housekeeper testified that she heard Helmsley say: "We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes."

She denied having said it, but the words followed her the rest of her life.

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