Harry B. Helmsley (March 4, 1909 – January 4, 1997) was an American businessman. He built a company that became one of the biggest property holders in the United States. Part of his company's portfolio at one time included the Empire State Building, The Helmsley Palace, the Park Lane Hotel (New York), the Helmsley Middletowne Hotel, the New York Helmsley Hotel (also known as the New York Harley), The Helmsley Windsor Hotel, the St. Moritz (now the Ritz-Carlton), the Carlton House hotels, the Harley Hotel chain and The Helmsley Building in New York City.
His wife, Leona Helmsley — notoriously called the "Queen of Mean" — was convicted in 1989 on federal charges of tax evasion in a celebrated trial. Harry had been indicted along with Leona, but it was determined that he was too far ill physically to stand trial and too weak mentally to be capable of assisting his attorneys in his own defense, one of the legal standards which allows crimes to go unprosecuted on the grounds of mental defect of the defendant.
In 1980, Mr. Helmsley received The Hundred Year Association of New York's Gold Medal Award "in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York."
Helmsley attended Evander Childs High School in The Bronx. He did not go to college. At age 16 in 1925, he began learning the real estate business, and started working for Dwight, Voorhis & Perry, where he rose from an office boy (for $12 a week) to broker to partner. He eventually purchased the firm in 1938, renaming it Dwight, Voorhis & Helmsley.
Also in 1938, he married Eve Ella Sherpick Green, a widow.
In 1955, he merged with business competitor Spear & Company, which became Helmsley-Spear and expanded his holdings in lower Manhattan. He purchased real estate firm Brown Harris Stevens, which brought him into rental and cooperative apartment sales and management; it was also where he hired Leona Roberts in 1970 as senior vice president.
He divorced his first wife Eve in 1971 and married Leona in 1972.
Helmsley died of pneumonia at age 87 at a hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona, and left all of his empire ($5.5 billion) to his wife Leona. His remains were initially entombed at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York, but later moved to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York.
- Lombardi, Kate Stone, "COUNTY LINES; Why Leona Buried Harry Not Once, But Twice", The New York Times, April 23, 2006
- American National Biography Listing for Harry Helmsley
- Obituary in Real Estate Weekly, January 15, 1997
- Harry Helmsley at Find a Grave