Eccentric multi-millionaire Abe Hirschfeld (search), an immigrant who lived the American dream until his increasingly bizarre behavior led him into politics, publishing and prison, died Tuesday. He was 85.

A family spokesman said Hirschfeld, who made his fortune, building parking lots and health clubs after immigrating to the United States from Israel, died today at Mount Sinai Hospital of cardiac arrest after suffering from cancer.

The self-made magnate spent 22 months in prison for plotting to kill a busines partner. He also amassed a real estate empire, earning a reputation among his colleagues as a bit off-center. Time magazine cited Hirschfeld among the 20th century's top builders and business titans, beneath the headline "Crazy and in Charge."

Hirschfeld later in life ran unsuccessfully for New York lieutenant governor, Manhattan borough president, state comptroller and U.S. Senate -- the latter against Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2000 and Charles Schumer in 2004.

He purchased The New York Post in 1993, a move that lasted 16 days, led to a full-scale staff revolt, and produced an unforgettable front-page headline that wondered, "WHO IS THIS NUT?"

The businessman sold the Post and founded his own paper, a daily called Open Air -- and it folded after five months. His trademark, while in the newspaper business, was to hand out ties with a crossword puzzle pattern.

Hirschfeld twice spit on a Miami Herald reporter to protest her paper's news coverage. And he offered Paula Jones $1 million to drop her sexual harassment suit against President Clinton. She later sued him for the money, but a judge dismissed the case.

The businessman sold the Post and founded his own paper, a daily called Open Air -- and it folded after five months. His trademark, while in the newspaper business, was to hand out ties with a crossword puzzle pattern.

Hirschfeld was born in Turnow, Poland and moved to what is now Israel in 1935. He came to the United States in 1943.

In June 2000, Hirschfeld was convicted of looking for a hit man to murder his business partner; two years later, he was hit with a $1 million tax evasion fine.

On Oct. 2, 2000, he started a 22-month jail term, getting out of jail in July 2002, just months before his 83rd birthday. He was among the oldest, and the richest, inmates in all of New York state.

"I'm a man whose mold the Good Lord wisely decided to set aside after he created me," Hirschfeld wrote in his book.

In a statement Tuesday, his son, Elie Hirschfeld, said of his father: "His vision and generous spirit were inspirational to all who knew him well, and I will miss his vibrant presence and his unbridled passion for life."

Hirschfeld is survived by his wife, Zipora, a son, Elie, and daughter, Rachel. A memorial service was planned for Wednesday afternoon at Riverside Memorial Chapel.