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Judge to order mediation in Simon estate dispute

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A Hamilton County judge plans to order mediation in a series of disputes surrounding the estate of the late mall billionaire Melvin Simon.

Superior Court Judge William J. Hughes on Tuesday told attorneys for widow Bren Simon, stepdaughter Deborah Simon and Simon Property Group Inc. that he plans to enter an order for mediation on Friday.

The parties will have 15 days to either agree on a mediator or file a motion objecting to the order. Hughes encouraged the attorneys to look nationwide if necessary to find the best possible mediator, without any conflicts.

Deborah Simon is challenging her father’s will in court, saying Melvin was coerced into approving a new estate plan that dramatically increased the amount of his fortune going to Bren. She also wants her stepmother removed as trustee of the estate—estimated to be worth $2 billion—while the broader case is pending.

Hughes has not yet ruled on the trustee issue, but on July 30 he banned distributions from the estate without the court's approval.

Simon Property Group, meanwhile, joined the dispute to determine whether it must honor Bren Simon’s request to convert $500 million of her late husband's ownership stake in the publicly traded company into common shares or cash.
 
On Tuesday, the judge said he expects all the parties—Bren, Deborah and representatives of the company, with the board’s authority—and their attorneys to attend mediation talks.

Attorneys for both sides asked the judge to clarify whether the mediation order applied only to the question of whether Simon Property must convert part of its co-founder’s ownership stake into common shares.

He shot back that it’s time to discuss “all of it, every bit of it … It’s clear we need to mediate now.”

“You don’t have to resolve everything or agree to anything,” he said, but the parties need to sit across the table from each other and try to work things out.

Hughes did not rule Tuesday on Bren Simon’s motion to dismiss the will contest, taking the matter under advisement.

The courtroom battle has provided a public glimpse into a long-simmering feud among members of one of the city's wealthiest and most prominent families.

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  1. How can any company that has the cash and other assets be allowed to simply foreclose and not pay the debt? Simon, pay the debt and sell the property yourself. Don't just stiff the bank with the loan and require them to find a buyer.

  2. If you only knew....

  3. The proposal is structured in such a way that a private company (who has competitors in the marketplace) has struck a deal to get "financing" through utility ratepayers via IPL. Competitors to BlueIndy are at disadvantage now. The story isn't "how green can we be" but how creative "financing" through captive ratepayers benefits a company whose proposal should sink or float in the competitive marketplace without customer funding. If it was a great idea there would be financing available. IBJ needs to be doing a story on the utility ratemaking piece of this (which is pretty complicated) but instead it suggests that folks are whining about paying for being green.

  4. The facts contained in your post make your position so much more credible than those based on sheer emotion. Thanks for enlightening us.

  5. Please consider a couple of economic realities: First, retail is more consolidated now than it was when malls like this were built. There used to be many department stores. Now, in essence, there is one--Macy's. Right off, you've eliminated the need for multiple anchor stores in malls. And in-line retailers have consolidated or folded or have stopped building new stores because so much of their business is now online. The Limited, for example, Next, malls are closing all over the country, even some of the former gems are now derelict.Times change. And finally, as the income level of any particular area declines, so do the retail offerings. Sad, but true.

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