Deborah Simon says other potential trustees have conflicts

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Deborah Simon, who’s seeking to remove her stepmother from overseeing a trust that holds her late father Melvin’s fortune, is asking a court to pass over the two Indianapolis businessmen who normally would be next in line for the job.

Language in the trust stipulates that if the stepmother, Bren Simon, is unable to serve as trustee because of incapacitation, resignation or death, Deborah’s brother, David, Simon Property Group’s chairman and CEO, would step into the role. And if he couldn’t serve, retired Katz Sapper & Miller partner Bruce Jacobson would become trustee.

But in a filing Monday seeking Bren’s ouster, Deborah instead favors appointment of a disinterested corporate trustee. The filing, first reported by IBJ, says that neither David Simon nor Jacobson should fill the role because both will be witnesses in the lawsuit she filed Jan. 7 contesting changes in the will that Melvin executed in February 2009—seven months before he died at age 82.

The changes boosted the portion of Melvin’s estate going directly to Bren, 66, from one-third to one-half. They also wiped out the portion that was to go to Deborah, David and their sister, Cynthia Simon-Skjodt.

Deborah contends Melvin was suffering from dementia and even needed help signing his name. Bren asserts the changes reflected Melvin’s wishes and he understood what he was doing. It acknowledges he needed help with his signature but attributed that to "Parkinsonian symptoms" affecting his right hand.

Jacobson, a longtime financial adviser to Melvin and Bren, witnessed the changes and “held and moved Melvin’s hand as he allegedly signed the altered will and trust,” according to Deborah’s lawsuit.

Deborah’s effort to oust Bren is the latest twist in an escalating battle over an estate that could be worth $2 billion.

In Monday’s filing, Deborah said it’s inappropriate for Bren to remain as trustee of The Melvin Simon Family Enterprises Trust while her lawsuit challenging the changes plays out. She argued appointment of a corporate trustee would “ensure that the assets of the trust and the interests of all beneficiaries are adequately protected.”

That step also is necessary, the filing asserts, because of “the level of distrust and animosity that exists between Bren Simon” and Deborah, David and Cynthia.

Furthermore, the filing says Bren’s recent efforts to convert part of Melvin’s ownership stake in the mall giant into common shares or cash cast doubt on her ability to properly carry out her duties as trustee.

Bren Simon notified Simon Property Group on Jan. 12 that she was electing to convert 6.5 million so-called partnership units held by her late husband into common shares or cash, at the company's discretion. The units are worth about $480 million based on recent trading in the company's shares.

The company responded that it could not convert the partnership units because of Deborah’s legal challenge. The company filed suit against Bren last week asking a judge to settle the dispute.

Deborah’s filing Monday suggests Bren’s behavior was reckless.

“Even if the trustee wanted to diversify the trust’s assets, the decision to potentially divest more than 6.5 million shares of stock in one day—at whatever average price the stock happened to be trading at for the previous five days—cannot conceivably be viewed as consistent with the duties of a prudent fiduciary to preserve the value of the trust’s assets for all beneficiaries,’’ the filing said.

“Any sensible investment adviser seeking to diversify assets would do so in a prudent, planned manner over a significant period of time.”

An attorney for Bren Simon could not be reached for comment.


  • Step-Parents
    My name is Deborah Simon and you aren't the only one fall victim to step-parents that don't want you to have anything! God Bless You! My Prayers are with you! DS
  • Jury Trial?
    Something is off with this story. Bren is going before a jury? This will be something like Marie Antoinette pleading her case. It certainly doesn't sound like Deborah Simon caused any of these problems. Her father always supported his charities of choice. Bren, fueled by revenge towards her stepchildren, was the one who decided to change this will, without any input from her husband's attorneys. Bren should pay the price for all the legal fees or worse - not her stepchildren who have to endure this horrible situation. Mel Simon put aside a huge amount of money for charities & that should go directly to them. Bren's greed & need for revenge and/or power might be her motive but the real story is how these charities have been left with zero. For what? So that our own Marie Antoinette can eat some more cake?
  • Go Deb Simon!!
    Its nice that there are those out there who can say they know Bren and that she was kind to them. Good for Bren for being a decent human being to whomever; it does not negate the greediness that is being displayed in the changing of Mel's will. I just can't fathom that 1/3 of that estate, regardless of what the stock value is, was and will be wouldn't be more than enough for her to live a very lavish lifestyle. Cutting out HIS children and the charities he supported during his lifetime is dispicable.
  • clarification
    that to me is a very valid reason for changing his WILL, not wife! He changed the wife he was unhappy with and was married to his death to a lady who as far as I am concerned deserves it all.
  • Joshua was also a Simon
    I met Bren years ago when her house was being built and I was given the privilege of accompanying the builder, one of Mel's best friends, and seeing the process of how a true piece of craftsmanship is built.

    Bren was so kind, and while I was young and in awe, she was as down to earth as one can be. I keep reading these diatribes on the internet about her but that is certainly not the way i personally saw her treat the workers, for whom I watched her personally deliver water and coffee to. Periodically I would see her about Indy and she always remembered me and I was a nobody then.

    My guess is she took loving care of her husband of almost 40 years. The fact that she and Mel honored their son, Joshua (link below) and that both have done so much for deserving causes, and their support of cancer means a lot more to me than Debbie Simon living in LA and producing a movie off of the money her Dad gave her.

    I do agree that the catastrophic collapse of the markets influenced Mel, who was still as sharp as a tack despite being disabled by Parkinsons. Parkinsons is not dementia, there is a difference, and I believe Mel, like many of the most affluent people in the world, believed the market would not recover for some time, and that to me is a very valid reason for changing his wife. The other may be he believes his children are successful and capable and David, for example, is already as wealthy...and maybe he believed Debbie was a jerk.

    So, the jury will get to decide who's telling the truth, a change of venue perhaps and at the end of the day this action filed by Debbie will divert about $100 Million of the pot of money to a bunch of churning, overpriced lawyers and expert witnesses.

    In loving memory of Joshua, brother to Tammy Simon--one of five childen of Mel Simon--

  • Rick Lambert in passing
    Smart move, level the playing field! I'll say it again, it frustrates me when I hear this kind of thing. Simons already have money, this we know, unless you have been there or are going through this you don't understand. My father completed 2 trusts (a,b) with an attorney, that stated exactly what he intended and still the trust was manipulated. "Others" (legal issues pending) still walked with everything!! even though he had appointed an executor. Given the statement â??Rick Lambertâ?? didnâ??t follow through, anyone and everyone who knew my father knows that this is a very false statement!. We "will" continue to fight until others make it right, so good luck Simon kids, keep fighting for your fathers values/rights.

    I hope someone of the courts/law will see that somthing needs to be written to protect Step Childeren. Unless the "step children" are listed with proper names in the will/trust, they get nothing. The billionares wife needed more money, realy. That will fly...

    In memory of my mom and dad.
  • Corporate Trustee
    Is one of the Simon Corporation Directors an Executive in the Private Client/Trust Department at JP Morgan? Maybe Bren should have stated new Trustee, except for David Simon, except for Bruce Jacobson, and except for JP Morgan? How long will the "except for" list be?

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