IBJNews

'Community icon' Melvin Simon dies

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Melvin Simon, a tailor’s son who earned billions building shopping malls across the U.S. and later became a prolific philanthropist in his adopted hometown of Indianapolis, has died. He was 82.

Simon succumbed today after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

Simon was co-owner with brother Herb of the Indiana Pacers basketball franchise and chairman emeritus of Simon Property Group Inc., the nation’s largest owner of retail real estate.

He was instrumental in the resurgence of downtown Indianapolis as a champion of Circle Centre mall in the mid-1990s and as a buyer of the financially strapped Indiana Pacers in the mid-1980s. More recently, Simon focused on philanthropic endeavors, including gifts of $10 million to the Indianapolis Museum of Art and $50 million for the IU Simon Cancer Center, including an endowment in honor of his late son Joshua Max Simon.

“He was a model for this community—I can’t say enough about him not only as a business man but as a charitable person,” said Sidney D. Eskenazi, the first attorney for Melvin Simon & Associates and now CEO of locally based Sandor Development Co. “Indianapolis has been lucky to have a family like the Simons, Mel in particular. We’ve lost a community icon.”

Mayor Greg Ballard echoed his sentiment.

"The city of Indianapolis today lost a true partner and friend with the death of Mel Simon. Mel and the entire Simon family have done great work in strengthening our local economy and improving our downtown district," Ballard said this morning in a written statement. "Mel will be truly missed and forever remembered for his many contributions to this city and our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family at this time."

Simon's funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, 600 W. 70th St. A private internment will follow.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Joshua Max Simon Primary Care Center at St.Vincent Hospital.

Simon was born in Brooklyn on Oct. 21, 1926, to Max and Mae Simon, and graduated from the Bronx High School of Science. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an MBA from City College in New York.

In 1953, the Army sent Simon to Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis. Simon stuck around after leaving the Army, taking a $100-a-week job leasing space at the Eastgate Shopping Center, according to The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. He would later buy the center.

He formed Melvin Simon & Associates in 1960 with his brothers Herb and Fred. They began by developing strip centers but soon sought to cash in on the enclosed-mall craze. The company grew fast, opening a couple of malls per year in the 1970s and 1980s.

Simon had tremendous vision, even in the early days when money was tight; he would see a piece of property and decide on the spot it was perfect for a shopping center, Eskenazi said.

He was generous, humble and honest with friends as well as business associates, said longtime friend Barton Kaufman.

“Melvin was a man who was only interested in win-win situations,” Kaufman said. “He wanted to win in the transaction, but he also wanted you to win. They don’t make them like him anymore; he was an original.”

Simon Property Group went public in 1995, acquired several of its competitors and today has interests in 320 retail properties in the U.S. and more than 60 international properties. Simon’s son, David, serves as the company’s CEO.

Even as Melvin Simon’s health began to fail in recent years, he kept in touch with the real estate business. He made the rounds on a scooter at the 2008 International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas, cracking jokes and catching up with old friends.

Simon and his wife, Bren, also kept in touch with Hollywood friends he made during an unsuccessful foray into moviemaking in the 1980s, and with prominent Democratic leaders such as former President Bill Clinton. The Simons hosted political fundraisers and lavish parties over the years at their Carmel estate known as Asherwood.

The most recent calculations by Forbes say Simon has a net worth of about $1.3 billion, down from $3.4 billion in 2007. Simon’s fortune took a hit after shares in Simon Property Group fell sharply in 2008, but he likely made up ground as the share price has risen for 2009. He was ranked among the 600 richest men in the world.

Simon has won numerous honors for his business acumen and philanthropic efforts. They include the Jewish Welfare Federation’s Man of the Year, the Horatio Alger Award, appointment as a lifetime trustee of the Urban Land Institute, and a spot in the Central Indiana Business Hall of Fame.

ADVERTISEMENT

  • If I understand this article correctly, this is the man who orchestrated the diversion of shoppers away from downtown merchants and toward the suburbs across America?
  • I was Melvinâ??s executive aid for 4 years, I truly loved him. I knew the softer side of Melvin and the love he had for his family, this city, and his Pacers. I will miss him and so will so should all of Indianapolis.
  • I am deeply saddened at the loss of a great friend and mentor of my past years. I was honored to work for SPG for 19 1/2 yrs. He will alwas be remembered. My deepest thoughts and prayers are with the entire SIMON Family.
  • He will be greatly missed.

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:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

ADVERTISEMENT