Lena Mindy Rosenthal, born on July 4,1920, was born
and raised in New York, USA. She changed her name to Leona Mindy Roberts. She
was an ambitious person, who knew there were quicker ways to be successful.  In 1964, Leona started off as a salesperson,
in a New York real estate firm, called Pease & Elliman. Thereafter, in 1968,
she started working as a condominium broker, where she met the Real estate
tycoon Mr. Harry Helmsley. Soon after, they got married and she joined his
brokerage firm as a Senior Vice-President. In 1971, many of her former tenants
sued her for forcing one of the tenants, for whom she bought the condominiums.

She lost the court case, because of which, her real estate license was
suspended and was forced to compensate the tenants. This marked the beginning of
her work in the hotel industry and expanding her husband’s hotel empire. By
1989, she was in charge of 23 hotels.

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She was very passionate about her work. She was a
goal centric person and wanted to be on very successful. She was very keen to implement
her dreams into actions – be it through public relations, hard work or an urge
to take actions in order to reap the rewards of dynamism.

 

I think her will was neatly written with absolute
clarity, regarding who should be a part of the will and how much should they
get. Mrs. Helmsley, in her 14-page long will, left a fortune to the Leona and
Harry Helmsley Charitable Trust and her dog, Trouble. Setting aside $12 million
to a trust for the care of her Maltese dog, caught everyone’s attention. Leona
had four grand-children, out of which, 2 children were given $5 million each,
in cash, under the condition that they were required to visit their father’s
grave, once every calendar year. She also left $15 million for her brother
Alvin Rosenthal and $100,000 for her chauffeur, Nicholas Celea. The other two
children, namely Craig Panzirer and Meegan Panzirer, received nothing, for the
reasons known to them. Later, during the court proceedings, the sum allotted to
Trouble, was considerably reduced to $2 million because $12 million was
considered excess to fulfill the purpose. Out of the additional $10 million, $4
million was awarded to the charitable trust and $6 million, was awarded to
Craig Panzirer and Meegan Panzirer, who had been disinherited from the will.

The fact that her dog was awarded with such a huge amount, was indeed very
surprising. A dog doesn’t need money to be happy, it needs a family. She should
have awarded either nothing or a smaller amount to Trouble and left a bigger
amount from the fortune for the Charitable Trust. That would have indirectly
helped the trust grow bigger and would have also helped more in the medical
research activities and dog welfare. Also, in my opinion, the part in the will
which says, that Trouble should be buried by her side in the same graveyard,
was very foolish, because dogs are not allowed to be buried in human
graveyards.

 

The Helmsley’s, despite their abundant wealth, were
known for disputing payments to the vendors. They were renovating their
Connecticut mansion, to make it even more luxurious, and spent $8 million for the
same. It was later revealed in court proceedings, that they charged those
remodeling bills to the Helmsley’s hotels as business
expenses. A group of contractors also sent falsified invoices, to prove that they
were doing this in order to avoid the tax liabilities. Leona would often demand
Mr. Jeremiah McCarthy, Helmsley’s executive engineer, to sign on invoices, in
order to bill her personal expenses to the company’s accounts. Another key
witness was Elizabeth Baum, housekeeper of Helmsley’s home, who testified
saying she heard Leona say, “We do not pay taxes, only little people pay
taxes.” Leona was then convicted for – three cases of tax evasion, three cases
of filing false personal tax returns, ten cases of mail fraud – and was
sentenced to serve 16 years in federal prison, which was later reduced to 18
months. Since she was convicted for reasons not shocking for anyone, her
sentence of 16 years, was a poor prospect. According to me, she should have
been sent to prison for the rest of her life.

 

Leona featured in an advertising campaign, where she
was endorsed as “Queen of the Palace” of the Helmsley Palace Hotel. She would
herself appear in all the ads related to the hotel because she wanted to portray
that she wanted nothing but the best for her guests. Post this, Leona acquired
the label of “Queen of Mean” and became widely known by this name. She was known
for tormenting her employees. She had the knack for administering the 23 hotel establishments.

She accepted her responsibilities with ultimate zest, and she would give
surprise visits to the hotels, conduct job-related interrogations and also do white-glove
inspections. All this combined, would often distress the employees. A meager
mistake also would qualify for bawling or screaming at the targeted employees
and then would eventually lead to them being fired. I believe she was the mean
queen because she did not leave her own son’s family from such contempt. She
successfully sued her son’s estate for property and money, that she claimed he
had borrowed from her.

 

I am personally not a Cynophilist. Hence, I would
not like to include a clause for a pet in my will. However, even if, in the
future, there comes a time, where I have a pet, I would yet not leave money for
the pet. I would instead assign a person/trust, to take care of the pet,
because love and affection is required for their happiness and long life and
not money. I would assign someone, who will look after the pet and not abandon
it.

 

According to press releases, Leona’s rise to glory
and infamy fall, made her a very controversial personality. Some people admired
her competitive streak, while others revealed that only she was to be blamed
for her downfall. After Leona was convicted for various cases of tax evasion
and extortion, she became a symbol of hysterical arrogance for Americans. Despite
the fact that many people considered her the “Queen of Mean”, a large section
of people also considered her generous in her charitable contributions, after
her prison term was over. It was because of her belligerent and stringent
persona, that Leona could control one of the most luxurious hotel chains in New
York, and that in itself left a strong impact nationwide. When she died, Mr.

Donald Trump said in an interview, “Leona Helmsley added something to New York,
in a very perverse way”.

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