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UPDATE: Bren Simon criticizes stepchildren in court hearing

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Bren Simon described her stepchildren as spoiled, vicious and hurtful, and said they refused to accept her as family despite her best efforts during 37 years of marriage to late shopping mall billionaire Melvin Simon.

Bren made the claims in a videotaped deposition, parts of which were aired in a Hamilton County courtroom on Thursday during a high-profile battle over Mel Simon's estate.

She said her stepchildren have been “cruel, insensitive and hurtful on a fairly regular basis” since she joined the family.

The long-simmering feud among Simon family members now is playing out in public as Mel’s daughter from a previous marriage leads an effort to challenge her father’s will. Deborah Simon claims Bren treated Melvin poorly in his final days and tricked him into reducing his childrens’ share of an estate estimated to be worth about $2 billion.

Bren Simon and Deborah Simon glared at each other from opposing tables at a feisty hearing Thursday over whether Bren is fit to serve as trustee over her late husband's estate. The hearing, which began at 9 a.m. and ended around 5 p.m., was scheduled to resume Friday morning.

Attorneys for Deborah Simon played snippets of the videotaped testimony, taken in March, in part to demonstrate the level of animosity Bren feels toward her stepchildren, which they say renders her unfit to fulfill her duties as trustee. Bren did not give live testimony.

Bren sat with several of her attorneys, watching the previously recorded statements in which she blasted Deborah and her siblings Cynthia Simon-Skjodt and David Simon, the chairman and CEO of Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group.

She responded to questions about scathing e-mails she had sent before and after her husband died, including one she sent to the security detail at the Asherwood estate in Carmel, to "keep all Simon family members off the property."

She explained that she was referring to her quest for a board seat on a family-controlled company called Melvin Simon & Associates when she wrote in another e-mail, "In the words of MLK, Thank God Almighty I'm free at last."

In February 2009, when she was a candidate for a U.S. Ambassadorship, Bren expressed in an e-mail how frustrated she was with the Simon family as a whole, including her husband, who died about seven months later.

"If Mel joins me, ok. And if he doesn't, I don't care. He has betrayed me in every sense," she wrote. "They don't know how to be loved. They punish the people who love them and praise and reward the bastards. I'm not spending one more minute on this family."

Bren said Deborah constantly “harangued” Melvin about money. And she described David Simon's behavior over the years as "terrorism."

David would come to the family’s Asherwood estate almost every day to play golf but wouldn’t even go in the house to see his father, Bren claimed. He would openly mock Mel at the company’s board meetings—troubling Mel to the point he would come home in tears, convinced it was time for him to resign from the company he founded.

Bren at various points in the testimony appeared upset, saying she couldn't understand all the hostility from her stepchildren. After all, she said, she never missed a "birthday, anniversary or grandparent's day at Park Tudor."

At other points, she came across as cold-hearted, even belligerent. Bren frequently shot back with questions of her own, describing one line of questioning from opposing counsel as "petty".

"Business is business is business," she sneered in another clip. "There's no emotion in business."

Michael Ciresi, an attorney for Bren, said his client regretted her harsh words. But he said negative things were said on both sides, and the animosity has not colored Bren's approach to her role as trustee.

He said Bren has several ugly e-mails, too, but hopes not to introduce them in court.

"I don't think Mel Simon would have liked to see these e-mails put in the public record," Ciresi said.

An earlier story about the hearing is available here.

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  • so many experts
    the fact of the matter is u are all outsiders looking in and unless u know both sides of the story from the horses mouth than u should shut up instead of speculating and looking like a horses ass
  • The issue is not about money!!
    95 per cent of estate cases that end up like this, it is not about money or greed. It is about being the "last battle ground" for family members to fight out unresolved family issues that have added up over the years. In this case 37+ years.
  • StepMothers
    We are always seen as the enemy in the eyes of step children...It is a no win situation..
    Instead of the bio-children looking at their union as a way to keep Dad happy and around longer. If she hadn't been there for him I wonder how attentive they would have been to his care??? Most bio- children of many wealthy men have a feeling of entitlement which has been developed by "DADDY"....
    • poor Bren
      YOU POOR LITTLE SELFISH WOMAN
    • she only see dollar$$$
      the only thing is spend on dumb things, that money suppose go to chartiy
    • Karma
      There is one amusing angle to this--at least Jeff Cohen doesn't get the inheritance to manage. HAHA!

      PS, Bren--we support you. You made Mel very, very happy, and at the end of the day it was his money to do with what he wanted. You more than earned it. "Deborah" can get a job.

      May Mel, one of the most wonderful men I have ever had the fortune to meet, rest in peace--and with a smile on his face that his spoiled rotten daughter has to actually think about how she is going to support herself on her own.
      • I have heard--
        the children were never happy that their father married Bren. Too bad, she did make him happy, and he did take very good care of their mother after the divorce and her illness.

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