Greed Beyond Belief

The Helmsleys. According to Jeanie Kasingdorf's article “Leona and Harry: Money and Love” (New York Magazine, 3O October), which we excerpt here, the wealth of Harry and Leona Helmsley is “conservatively estimated at $5 billion.” The Helmsleys, Trumps and their class are the people we want to overthrow and do you believe they’re going to go easily?

New York Magazine, 3 October 1988

In March 1982, while Field's Accountants were busy going through the Helmsley Palace books, Leona Helmsley's son Jay Panzierer, died suddenly after suffering a heart attack. The death plunged Harry and Leona Helmsley into a much more bizarre legal battle.

Panzier, who was 40 when he died, had lived near Orlando, Florida, with his third wife, Mimi, and his fourteen-year old son, Craig, one of four children from his marriage. He collapsed during a meeting at the Orlando Harley Hotel and was rushed to a nearby hospital. Harry and Leona immediately boarded their BAC-1-11 to fly to Florida, but Jay died before they got there. Leona had the body flown back to New York on a commercial jet for burial at Woodlawn Cemetery, where she and Harry have a mausoleum.

A few weeks later, according to Mini Panzirer, Harry Helmsley showed up at her house in Florida. “He said he wanted me out.” she says. “I asked him why he was doing this. He said he needed the money. He went into detailed explanation of why he could no longer charge the expenses of the house to Deco. He was very businesslike, very calm.” She begged him to let her stay until Craig finished the school year. He agreed.
Six months later, Harry Helmsley sued Jay Panzier's estate for the money it had cost to have his body flown back to New York. Leona Helmsley sued the estate to recover money that she said Jay had borrowed from her $100,000 that she said had lent him to buy a share of stock in the Helmsley Palace. Leona also sued Mimi, claiming that she had lent Mimi an $18,000 ring from Buccellati and Mimi had never returned it. Mimi said that the ring, which was set with a 24-carat white topaz surrounded by 136 diamonds, was a present to celebrate Craig's bar mitzvah.

In the end, the court refused to reimburse Harry Helmsley for the cost of shipping his stepson's body home. Leona withdrew the claim to the ring after Mimi produced a newspaper story in which Leona had called it a gift. But the Helmsleys did get most of Jay Panzirer's $149,000 estate. Mimi got $2,171, and his four children got $432 each. At the time, a spokesman for Leona Helmsley said that she had set up trust funds for the grandchildren. “She loves them,” he said, “and she is taking care of them.”


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