Melvin Simon's daughter seeks to oust Bren as trustee

Greg Andrews
February 1, 2010
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Deborah Simon on Monday filed court papers seeking to remove her stepmother, Bren, from overseeing and administering a trust holding the late Melvin Simon’s fortune.

The move is the latest salvo in an escalating battle over an estate that could be worth $2 billion. Deborah, one of three children of Melvin’s first wife, on Jan. 7 filed a lawsuit challenging changes to his estate plan executed in February 2009 that boosted the portion of Melvin’s estate going directly to Bren from one-third to one-half.

Deborah contends Melvin was suffering from dementia at the time, and she alleges the changes stemmed from Bren’s undue influence, duress and fraud. Bren, on the other hand, contends the revisions fully reflected Melvin’s wishes and stemmed from his concern over the declining stock price of Simon Property Group, his principal holding.

In Monday’s filing, Deborah said it’s inappropriate for Bren to remain as trustee of The Melvin Simon Family Enterprises Trust while that lawsuit plays out. She’s seeking appointment of a third-party corporate trustee “to 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]” and her siblings, Cynthia Simon-Skjodt and David Simon, the CEO and chairman of Simon Property Group.

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 casts 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 $460 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.”
Melvin Simon, who died Sept. 16 at age 82, co-founded Simon Property Group and was one of Indiana’s richest men.

In addition to giving Bren more of Melvin’s fortune, the revised estate plan wiped out a share that was to go Deborah, David and Cynthia, and leaves charitable giving to Bren’s discretion. The prior plan specifically earmarked one-third of the estate for charity.

An attorney for Bren Simon, 66, was not immediately available Monday night to comment on the latest filing.


    Bren projects onto others what she says they are doing to her. She re-writes her history. She is really the GREEDY one. Isn't there enough money to go around without her needing all of it? She only wants to fight and take back what she has given. It's pathetic. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be conscious.
  • cmon
    bren was married to him 30 plus years. The kids did there own thing because they were blessed to be born into money. they have billions. bren has money too but now she needs the support of her husband. wouldnt any wife want that????????
  • Fathers mistake
    Melvin should have know what his will said, if he wanted it to be different he had plenty of time when he was definitely in his right mind. It's only money. With the attorney fees and stress on everyone is it really worth it all? Look at the length of time he and Bren were married. Melvin had to have known what he was doing.
  • Rick Lambert in passing
    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 ââ?¬Å?Rick Lambertââ?¬Â? didnââ?¬â?¢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.
  • Go Deborah!
    I'm with Deborah and the Simon kids. They deserve their fair share of their father's estate. They have all worked in the business and have been successful. Bren is the greedy one. RIP Mel.
  • Deb Simon is Righteous
    Bren is greedy. Seriously, 1/3 isn't enough?
  • Simon's daughter seeks to oust Bren
    Sounds like a full-employment program for lawyers.
  • Take a deep breath.....
    Wow! With the calamity of the financial markets, real estate markets, and unemployment, it is hard to imagine these parties cannot come to terms to split an estate of 2 BILLION dollars? Get real. There is nothing more distastful than to read about family infighting in the press. This time should be spent extolling the great investment the Simon family made into the Indianapolis communtity and not about how three children are offended they may have to split 1 billion dollars..........
  • Greedy Bren
    Bravo Deborah! Bren is in the wrong here. She is trying to take money that was originally earmarked for charity for use in her next facellift.
  • Peace
    Interesting how quickly we forget the panic in the financial markets just 1 year ago. Our capitalist system was literally coming apart at the seams. March 9th, 2009 was the bottom. All the "experts" where screaming commercial real-estate is Next! SPG bottomed March 8th, 2009 at $23.57. It's perfectly plausible that Mr Simon was prepairing for the stock to take it on the chin and perhaps take years to recover? Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but wth do I know? Fortunately cooler heads have prevailed (to date) and the stock now trades in the $70s. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and all parties will come to reasonable agreement away from the public eye.

  • I doubt you tell the truth
    I don't think you are doing what you say. I doubt you even have the money for a trust. I myself believe the children should have say in the estate. Anyone who would try to sell off that many shares at ONE time is not even thinking. I would say that person is dilusional. So anyhow, screw your kids if you want to, you are sickening.
    • Brat??
      Not sure how people are painting the kids as Brats....first off, they are not kids, and they were taken care well, as Bren was, when Mr. Simon was alive. Doesn't anyone see that Bren's motives were less than honorable? The kids are not asking for her not to be taken care of, she is simply trying to pull a fast one, and a weak fast one at best. If this goes through the court system she will lose....and more than like suffer court costs. She is trying to kick the kids off the bus.....if anyone is Greedy, it is Bren. She knows she will lose, and by losing she still gets a third plus...so why not let the kids think she has control.
    • What a Baby
      I feel sorry for Mel Simon, what a BRAT for a daughter! My wife and i, to avoid stupid stuff like this, put all our RE holdings in a trust with it ALL being given to various charities so our two kids, from previous marriages couldn't pull off this kind of stupid stunts! We started with nothing, and our kids should fend for themselves. They got educated and now are on their own! Unlike this crybaby! Give me a break!

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