By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated May 20, 1998 12:00 AM

New York real estate empress Leona Helmsley, 80, nicknamed the Queen of Mean, forced the resignation of the former CEO of her empire, Patrick Ward, 45, because she had believed that he harbored romantic feelings toward her when, in fact, she discovered that he is gay, reports The Washington Post. Ward, who had joined Helmsley Enterprises only four months ago, cruelly deceived Leona, she claims after having learned of his sexuality after reading a Wall Street Journal profile of him. Up until then, reports the Post, Helmsley had been telling friends that she and Ward were even considering marriage. Now, says The Post, they are both considering lawsuits — she over some apartments she had sold Ward (and now reputedly wants back), and he for the sudden and malicious loss of his job, according to his lawyer. Helmsley’s spokesman, Howard J. Rubenstein, had no comment.