IBJNews

Bren Simon fires attorneys in estate dispute, appeals ruling

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Bren Simon is poised to replace her outside legal team in favor of a heavy hitter from Chicago as she appeals two courtroom setbacks in Hamilton County.

The widow of shopping mall billionaire Melvin Simon has petitioned the Indiana Court of Appeals to overturn a December ruling by Hamilton County Superior Court Judge William J. Hughes that removed her as interim trustee over her late husband's $2 billion estate.

Bren also is challenging the judge's refusal to recuse himself from the case after she took issue with his choice of personal counsel to represent him in front of a state judicial commission.

Meanwhile, Melvin's wife of 37 years apparently has given attorneys Michael V. Ciresi, David W. Beehler, Stacey P. Slaughter, Steven K. Orloff and David Martinez their walking papers. Simon hired the high-profile Ciresi team early in 2010.

The team of attorneys from Minneapolis-based Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP petitioned the court this week to withdraw as counsel. The judge did not immediately grant the request at a hearing Tuesday, giving an attorney for newly appointed trustee Theodore R. Boehm a chance to respond.

The concern is whether allowing the out-of-state attorneys to withdraw could jeopardize the trustee's access to estate documents. The trustee's attorney said the firm already has delivered 88,000 pages.

Bren has hired a new legal team led by Anton R. Valukas, chairman of Jenner & Block LLP, a Chicago-based powerhouse with 470 attorneys and offices in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Her local attorneys, William E. Wendling Jr. and Anne Hensley Poindexter of Noblesville-based Campbell Kyle Proffitt LLP, remain on the case.

The hearing Tuesday was a bit awkward for Wendling and Poindexter, since technically Bren Simon is no longer a party in the case after her removal as trustee. The attorneys said they attended the hearing to represent Bren "in her former capacity as trustee." Ciresi and Beehler joined Tuesday's hearing by phone but said little.

The names on the case will need to be changed to reflect a change in parties, the judge said. The plaintiff is Deborah Simon, one of Melvin's children from a previous marriage. The defendant will change to Boehm, a retired Indiana Supreme Court justice who is catching up on the case as trustee. Bren could intervene in the case as a third party, depending on the results of her appeals.

In removing Bren as trustee, Judge Hughes cited her decision to distribute $13 million from the estate to herself without notifying other trust beneficiaries, a move she later tried to recast as a loan. Among Bren's other questionable decisions: Paying her attorneys more than $3 million from the estate without the court's approval, and moving to convert more than $500 million worth of ownership units in Simon Property Group Inc. without appropriate professional advice, the judge wrote.

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

Bren's efforts to remove Hughes from the case began when the judge hired two attorneys with Bingham McHale after he was charged with driving while intoxicated in North Carolina in October. A different attorney at the same firm represents Simon Property Group, which got involved in the case after Bren sought to cash out Melvin's ownership units.

Hughes replaced the Bingham McHale attorneys on Nov. 22, three days after Bren’s attorneys objected and asked for a stay in the case. Hughes said he has “no bias” for any party or attorney in the case, but Bren’s attorneys were not convinced.

Deborah claims Bren coerced Melvin to make changes to his estate plan in February 2009, seven months before he died at age 82. (Click here for a July story on the dispute that includes video excerpts of Bren's deposition; the first of the four videos appears below.)



Deborah contends Melvin was suffering from dementia and didn’t understand what he was doing when he signed off on the plan, which boosted the share of his fortune going directly to Bren from one-third to one-half. The changes also wiped out a portion that was to go to Deborah and her two siblings from Simon’s first marriage—Cynthia Simon-Skjodt and David Simon, the CEO of Simon Property Group Inc.

Bren has claimed in court filings that the changes to the will reflected Melvin’s desire to compensate her for a drop in the company’s stock price and a reduction in the cash dividend.

ADVERTISEMENT

  • The Marshes
    Hey, enough about the Simons, how about Don Marsh and Sun Capital or David Marsh and his mortgage foreclosure.
  • C'mon IBJ
    You're better than that, aren't you?

    Every time we have another story about this estate you are going to trot out the same four minutes of video tape like somehow it's news again.
  • The Young and the Restless....
    awww....come on, lets not bash the Simon saga....it's better than daytime television, and it's been so long since IBJ has shared anything, I was beginning to wonder what the Newman, oh wait I mean the Simon clan was up to!
  • full employment
    And the full employment scheme for lawyers continues.
  • sick
    Ah, how we often wish to be rich...famous...this family has some of both, and they are all clearly miserable human beings with a value system so screwed up that they are all fighting over getting a larger share of more money than any of them could possibly spend. We could feed a 3rd World Nation or cure cancer with the lawyer fees...pitiful sick story.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
thisissue1-092914.jpg 092914

Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Cramer agrees...says don't buy it and sell it if you own it! Their "pay to play" cost is this issue. As long as they charge customers, they never will attain the critical mass needed to be a successful on company...Jim Cramer quote.

  2. My responses to some of the comments would include the following: 1. Our offer which included the forgiveness of debt (this is an immediate forgiveness and is not "spread over many years")represents debt that due to a reduction of interest rates in the economy arguably represents consideration together with the cash component of our offer that exceeds the $2.1 million apparently offered by another party. 2. The previous $2.1 million cash offer that was turned down by the CRC would have netted the CRC substantially less than $2.1 million. As a result even in hindsight the CRC was wise in turning down that offer. 3. With regard to "concerned Carmelite's" discussion of the previous financing Pedcor gave up $16.5 million in City debt in addition to the conveyance of the garage (appraised at $13 million)in exchange for the $22.5 million cash and debt obligations. The local media never discussed the $16.5 million in debt that we gave up which would show that we gave $29.5 million in value for the $23.5 million. 4.Pedcor would have been much happier if Brian was still operating his Deli and only made this offer as we believe that we can redevelop the building into something that will be better for the City and City Center where both Pedcor the citizens of Carmel have a large investment. Bruce Cordingley, President, Pedcor

  3. I've been looking for news on Corner Bakery, too, but there doesn't seem to be any info out there. I prefer them over Panera and Paradise so can't wait to see where they'll be!

  4. WGN actually is two channels: 1. WGN Chicago, seen only in Chicago (and parts of Canada) - this station is one of the flagship CW affiliates. 2. WGN America - a nationwide cable channel that doesn't carry any CW programming, and doesn't have local affiliates. (In addition, as WGN is owned by Tribune, just like WTTV, WTTK, and WXIN, I can't imagine they would do anything to help WISH.) In Indianapolis, CW programming is already seen on WTTV 4 and WTTK 29, and when CBS takes over those stations' main channels, the CW will move to a sub channel, such as 4.2 or 4.3 and 29.2 or 29.3. TBS is only a cable channel these days and does not affiliate with local stations. WISH could move the MyNetwork affiliation from WNDY 23 to WISH 8, but I am beginning to think they may prefer to put together their own lineup of syndicated programming instead. While much of it would be "reruns" from broadcast or cable, that's pretty much what the MyNetwork does these days anyway. So since WISH has the choice, they may want to customize their lineup by choosing programs that they feel will garner better ratings in this market.

  5. The Pedcor debt is from the CRC paying ~$23M for the Pedcor's parking garage at City Center that is apprased at $13M. Why did we pay over the top money for a private businesses parking? What did we get out of it? Pedcor got free parking for their apartment and business tenants. Pedcor now gets another building for free that taxpayers have ~$3M tied up in. This is NOT a win win for taxpayers. It is just a win for Pedcor who contributes heavily to the Friends of Jim Brainard. The campaign reports are on the Hamilton County website. http://www2.hamiltoncounty.in.gov/publicdocs/Campaign%20Finance%20Images/defaultfiles.asp?ARG1=Campaign Finance Images&ARG2=/Brainard, Jim

ADVERTISEMENT