Notoriously irascible US business executive. In 1972 she married the US property tycoon Harry Helmsley, who owned hotels, apartment buildings, and commercial properties. In 1980 she became president of Helmsley Hotels and appeared as the ‘Queen’ in high-profile advertising campaigns. Convicted of tax evasion, she received a four-year sentence in 1989. After her husband's death in 1997, she started dismantling his property empire. Following her death in August 2007, it was reported in July 2008 that she had left instructions that her entire trust fortune be used for the care and welfare of dogs.
She was born in New York City, and in 1971 she started working for her future husband. In 1988 the couple were charged with tax evasion. Harry was deemed unfit to stand trial, but Leona was fined $7.1 million, ordered to pay $1.7 million in back taxes, and assigned 750 hours of community service. She spent 18 months in prison 1992–94. US financial magazine Forbes estimated her net worth at $1.9 billion in 2000.
Upon his death, Harry Helmsley's portfolio was valued at $5 billion, with interests in high-profile properties and hotels – including the Helmsley Park Lane, the Carlton House, and the Helmsley Windsor – and a lease held on the Empire State building, owned by US property entrepreneur Donald Trump. Leona sold the Harley Hotel chain (bought as the Hospitality Motor Inns in 1980 for $36 million) and San Francisco's Park Merced apartments for $2 billion in 1999; and seven Manhattan buildings consisting of 1,500 apartments known as Park West sold for an estimated $120 million in 2000.