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Millionaire lawyer jumps into Melvin Simon will fight

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One of the principal attorneys in the headline-grabbing court fight over the late billionaire Melvin Simon’s fortune is a millionaire in his own right accustomed to the spotlight.

Minneapolis lawyer Mike Ciresi, who’s representing widow Bren Simon, helped win a $6 billion settlement for Minnesota against the tobacco industry, yielding millions in fees that he used to help launch forays into Democratic politics.

He also represented the government of India against Union Carbide Corp. in the Bhopal catastrophe, which killed thousands of people and ranks as the biggest industrial accident ever. And he has represented women killed or rendered infertile by defective intrauterine devices.  

ciresi mike Ciresi

It’s not clear how Bren Simon, herself a Democratic activist who’s contributed more than $2 million to party candidates and committees over the past decade, got to know Ciresi. Neither returned phone calls from IBJ. Campaign finance records show she’s contributed thousands of dollars to Minnesota’s Democratic Party, but don’t list her as giving specifically to Ciresi, a two-time candidate for the U.S. Senate. In 2000, he lost in the primary; in 2008, he dropped out before the primary.

Ciresi, whose net worth is estimated at $26 million, is known for laser focus. The Minneapolis Star Tribune said he’s fond of telling his legal team, often in the wee hours, “Our clients can rest easy at night because we don’t.”

He and David Beehler, a fellow partner at Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi in Minneapolis, are squaring off against attorneys at Ice Miller, Indiana’s third-biggest law firm. Partners Richard Smikle and Andrew Vento are representing Melvin’s daughter Deborah, who sued in January. She’s contesting changes to Melvin Simon’s estate plan executed in February 2009, seven months before he died at age 82.  

The legal battle, which is playing out at the Hamilton County Government and Judicial Center in Noblesville, has huge stakes. Melvin Simon, co-founder of Simon Property Group Inc., amassed a fortune that might top $2 billion.

Deborah contends her father didn’t understand what he was doing when he overhauled his estate plan, boosting the share going to Bren, her stepmother, from one-third to one-half. The changes also wiped out a portion that was to go to Deborah and his two other children from his first marriage—Cynthia Simon-Skjodt and David Simon, the chairman and CEO of Simon Property. Bren contends the changes fully reflected Melvin’s wishes.

It’s the biggest estate fight in Indiana history, and it’s sure to be bruising. Plenty of acrimony already has surfaced, and the case isn’t even set for trial until March 2011.

In one filing, Deborah seeks to oust Bren from overseeing a trust that holds Melvin Simon’s fortune. She called the move necessary to protect the interests of all beneficiaries in light of “the level of distrust and animosity that exists” between Bren and Deborah, Cynthia and David.

Bren, 66, who wants to remain trustee, doesn’t deny tension. In court papers, she said the revisions in her husband’s estate plan stemmed partly from his realization “that the children might not be fair or equitable to Bren Simon if the children were left with an ability to impact Bren’s financial situation or business interests.”

State economy sputtering

The worst is over. But good times are a long way off.

That was the message executives at Evansville-based Old National Bancorp, the largest bank based in Indiana, hammered home during a conference call with analysts this month. Old National’s calls provide a front-line assessment of the Hoosier economy, including in Indianapolis, where the bank has a large presence.

CEO Bob Jones set a somber tone, saying he sees “a continuation of a very soft loan demand in our markets, as our clients wait to see if the economic recovery is real.” Chief Banking Officer Barbara Murphy said loan demand held up longer in Indianapolis than it did in Evansville, but now “has fallen just as sharply.”

Cummins keeps climbing

Shares of engine maker Cummins Inc. marched higher over the past week, as investors bet that strong overseas sales would offset sluggish saleshome.

The Columbus, Ind., company’s shares popped 7.2 percent on one recent day, after a Citigroup analyst said the manufacturer would benefit from “significant exposure to fast-growing developing economies,” particularly in China and India.

Cummins shares now are trading for about $56.50, up $10.60, or 23 percent, on the year.•

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  1. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

  2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

  3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

  4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

  5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?

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