Tuesday, January 22, 2008

How much is that doggy in the window worth?

Once again, I had a good time reading Fortune's 101 Dumbest Moments in Business for 2007. A few I have blogged on, but a few real beauts I somehow failed to notice. Just how did I miss the news that rapper Jay-Z's clothing line came out a "faux fur" jacket made out of dog (or is it dawg?) hair? Or the fact that Eli Lilly is marketing Prozac for dogs. (Not that I haven't known a few dogs that could stand a few doses.)

But the dog news in Fortune's round up that really got me going was the bit about Leona Helmsley's leaving $12M to her pup.

Not surprisingly, Leona's dog was a Maltese, preciously named Trouble.

Let's face it, it's hard to imagine someone leaving that kind of money to a black Lab named Buddy.

No, I'm guessing that when the big bucks are left to furry friends, they go to ankle-biting yappers - or cats. (Not that all little dogs are ankle-biting yappers - Alice and Bob, my sister-in-law and her husband - have two Bichons that are quite loveable - but I tend to be a big dog kind of gal.)

Twelve million.

That's a log of Milk Bones and Dog Chow, isn't it?

In the wake of the announcement, some of those who knew Trouble stepped out to trash talk the pooch.

Helmsley's former housekeeper, Zamfira Safra, who was apparently stiffed in the will, claimed that Trouble was nothing but, and that she "was bitten dozens of times." From the Daily News article that quoted the housekeeper, we also learn that Trouble received the largest individual trust from the will - and that Leona "believed her late husband, Harry, communicated with her through the dog."

Presumably Harry suggested the amount.

And the fact that Leona was communing with Harry via Trouble (kind of) explains the housekeeper's report that:

Helmsley even shared her double king-size bed with Trouble, Sfara said, and lots of kisses.

"She would lick the dog tongue to tongue," she said. "It was unnatural. It was unhealthy."

Well, yes, but if Leona actually thought it was Harry, then... let's hear it for geriatric love. (Leona was in her late eighties.)

The $12M will come in handy for Alvin Rosenthal, who inherited the pooch, given that:

Trouble was dressed in pricey outfits and sported a diamond collar. The dog's chef-prepared meals - steamed vegetables and steamed or grilled chicken and fish - arrived in porcelain bowls on a silver tray.

The housekeeper reported that she had to "get down on my knees and feed the dog with my two fingers."

Given that Leona neglected to leave anything to a couple of her grandchildren, I'm certainly not surprised that she left me out, even though I actually almost sort of met her one time.

My friend Michele and I were in New York on business, and corporate travel had screwed up our reservations. It was December, and you try getting a hotel in Manhattan a week before Christmas. Anyway, the best that we could do was rooms in the Gramercy Park Hotel, which was in the midst of being converted from a men's residential hotel to a hotel-hotel. (Did I say "midst"? Actually, it was very early on in the conversion, and the old geezers in bathrobes and slippers were much in evidence on the elevators.)

Unwilling to face the hotel quite yet once we were done with business for the day, we popped into the Helmsley Palace for a drink.

Here we were, two bedraggled and weary businesswoman - it was raining, we were tired, etc. - but I didn't think we looked all that out place in the Helmsley Palace.

In any case, before we had our drink we decided to take a little tour of the public areas of the Palace - and Leona, for whatever reason, decided to follow us around. And I do mean follow us around, with a look of distaste on her face and a crinkled up nose that one would have thought she might have reserved for street crazies who'd wandered in.

We were obviously working women, and not workin' girls, in our iron-wear business suits, floppy bow ties, and trench coats, lugging our deadweight briefcases.

I guess the only thing that kept Leona from directly confronting us - and bouncing us out of there - was her fear that we were actually staying there.

Years later, when Leona was sent to jail for tax fraud, I often thought of her in a less than posh jail cell - far worse than our dreary rooms in the Gramercy Park - and of her being followed around by suspicious prison guards. Hah!

$12 million left to a dog.

I guess when you compare it to the full estate - valued at between $4B and $8B - it's the equivalent of the rest of us leaving a 50 pound bag of Gravy Train, a new flea color, and a squeaky toy to our favorite doggy.

The bulk of Helmsley's estate, by the way, goes to her charitable foundation, which places the foundation in the Top Ten. It will be interesting to see what gets done with the money.

And if you're interested, Leona's art, silver, and furniture collections will be auctioned for charity by Christie's throughout the year. You may be too late for the silver, which went last week, but there's plenty of time to get your bids in on the rest.

I will be taking a pass.

Having toured the glittery excess of the Helmsley Palace, and having learned of Leona's strange relationship with Trouble, I can safely assume that her tastes wouldn't have all that much overlap with mine.

1 comment:

John Whiteside said...

What's kind of sad is that a dog that is biting people and being hand fed by a person is not a happy dog. A happy dog is a dog who is sticking its nose into piles of leaves in the backyard, sniffing others dogs' butts, chewing on bones, and happily snorting down food at dinnertime. Money really doesn't buy happiness, does it?