Legal Issues and Simon Property Group and Mel Simon and Law and Real Estate & Retail

Attorneys argue widow should remain Simon estate trustee

July 16, 2010

Attorneys for Bren Simon argued Friday she has served capably to date as executor and trustee of the estate of her late husband Melvin Simon, pointing to a series of moves she has signed off on, including the transfer of her husband's stake in the Indiana Pacers.

Bren's attorneys are trying to fend off a challenge from her stepchildren over whether she is fit to remain as trustee over her late husband's estate. She was first named as a trustee over some of the vast Simon family holdings in 2003.

The hearing in front of Hamilton County Superior Court Judge William J. Hughes began with harsh allegations on Thursday and was expected to last most of the day Friday. Attorneys for Melvin's children from a prior marriage are seeking the appointment of an independent trustee to replace Bren.

Marrianne Schmitt Hellauer, an estate-planning attorney based in Baltimore who has worked with Bren since 2005, testified about detailed plans she helped develop for appraising the value of an estate likely worth $2 billion and the moves her legal team has taken since Mel died in September 2009.

Hellauer said Melvin's estate closed on a deal in March that transferred his stake in the NBA franchise to his brother Herb. A 2009 agreement between Herb and Mel called for Herb to take over full control within 90 days of Mel's death.

Closing on the deal took a bit longer as Herb sought out financing to buy out his brother's interest, Hellauer said. Herb had agreed to pay off a $47.5 million loan Melvin had taken out for the team as part of the deal to transfer ownership.

The long-simmering feud among Simon family members is playing out in public as Mel’s daughter from a previous marriage leads an effort to challenge her father’s will.

Deborah Simon's legal team is taking issue with several estate decisions including a $13 million advance paid to Bren. Deborah claims Bren treated Melvin poorly in his final days and tricked him into reducing his childrens’ share of the estate.

Deborah's legal team argued Thursday that Bren is unfit to serve as trustee, saying that she is hostile toward her stepchildren and already has bungled several important decisions.

They played snippets of videotaped testimony from Bren, taken in March, in which she describes Deborah and her siblings Cynthia Simon-Skjodt and David Simon, the chairman and CEO of Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group, as spoiled, vicious and hurtful.

In e-mails entered into the court record, Bren calls Deborah "bin Laden" and describes the actions of David as "terrorism."

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