Revised Mel Simon estate suit calls Bren 'abusive'

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Melvin Simon’s daughter Deborah is lashing out at her stepmother Bren in a new court filing, saying  she was “mentally and verbally abusive” toward the billionaire late in his life and kept him isolated from friends and family.

The amended complaint, filed Tuesday in Hamilton Superior Court, alleges Bren committed fraud and exercised undue influence over Melvin when he made changes to his estate plan in February 2009 that dramatically increased the share of his fortune earmarked for her.

Deborah sued in January, seeking to throw out the revised plan, which Melvin signed seven months before he died at age 82. Her attorneys filed the amended complaint, replete with new allegations, following a judge’s ruling last month that the original complaint failed to allege fraud with “sufficient specificity.”

The amended complaint casts Bren, 66, as domineering and deceitful, saying she secretly had Melvin’s direct telephone line rerouted to security employees answerable to her, so that she could screen all his calls.

“In fact,” the complaint alleges, “Bren would not allow Melvin to receive calls unless she screened them first, and she lied about doing so when Deborah questioned why she was not able to reach her father by phone.”

Further, Deborah charges that Bren was “verbally abusive during this period, regularly screaming and yelling at him, badgering him, belittling him, cursing him, and calling Melvin vulgar names.

“When Melvin would not acquiesce to Bren’s wishes, Bren would order Melvin’s assistants to keep him away from her, which ... effectively cut Melvin off from the outside world for extended periods of time.”

An attorney for Bren declined to comment.

Deborah contends her father was suffering from dementia and didn’t understand what he was doing when he revised the plan, boosting the share of his fortune going directly to Bren from one-third to one-half.

The changes also wiped out a portion that was to go to Deborah and her siblings from Melvin’s first marriage—Cynthia Simon-Skjodt and David Simon, the chairman and CEO of Simon Property Group—and left charitable gifts stipulated in prior versions to Bren’s discretion.

Bren, 66, who married Melvin in 1972, contends the changes fully reflected his wishes.

In the amended complaint, Deborah also charged that:

— Late in Melvin’s life, Bren signed his name on documents without a notation that she had done so. For example, she signed his name to papers that authorized the transfer of tens of millions of dollars out of Melvin’s accounts into her own, according to the filing.

— An attorney for Bren contacted Lawrence Jegen—a professor at the IU School of Law in Indianapolis who had been Melvin’s estate attorney for more than 30 years—about revising his estate plan, but never followed up with him after he said he would have to discuss proposed revisions directly with Melvin.

— Marianne Hellauer, a Baltimore attorney representing Bren, made numerous false and misleading statements to Melvin about the revisions and why he should approve them. Hellauer could not be reached by IBJ for comment.

Melvin Simon was one of Indiana’s richest men. Forbes magazine in March 2009 estimated his net worth at $1.3 billion. Shares of Simon Property, his principal holding, have zoomed higher since, perhaps pushing the value of his fortune past $2 billion.


  • Bren Simon
    To read this makes me sick. I know Bren and she has been a very loving wife to Mel for almost 40 years. All marriages have their problems. Do you think Mel would have stayed with a woman who was abusive? Mel loved her more than anyone. He couldn't stand to be away for her for more than a few minutes, esp. during the last months of his life. She was always by his side, comforting him, kissing him, rubbing his head and telling him how much she loved him. Debbie knows this too. If Bren even left the room for a minute, Mel would call out for her. He felt safe with her. They had a once in a lifetime connection like John and Yoko or Liz and Richard. They were an amazing pair who loved each other tremendously.
  • Dupped
    Bren could be my wifes twin. Sounds just like what happed me and my children, I left a good portion to them and she manipulated the system to get it all. My kids are strong, they will not give up!

  • Correction--Learn before writing
    Writer wrong--Wife who helped work side by side to help Mel go from rags to riches--army pay to $$$$--was revered 1st wife Bess-mother of all surviving children--dumped AFTER a)MS made millions, b)met then-Brenda (who incised her name after very rich indeed!)--secretary at local hotel living paycheck to paycheck. Local religious community idolized Bess til her death (factually, no local rabbi would help Brenda convert to marry Mel--she had to go out of town!) and while she may have been smart, good or bad, that's the correction.
  • Bren
    Man...now I know I'll never se this movie on Hallmark! Looks like maybe....Military Channel or FUSE
  • Takes one to know one
    If you've ever dealt with members of this family on any kind of business, which I have, you'll find that they're all mentally and verbally abusive. Not just to their suppliers, but also to each other.
    • well...
      ...it's not like Bren was some 'trophy wife' out for his money since they were married since 1972 and most of his wealth was created during that time...experience tells me that rich kids NEVER think they get enough when their rich parents die, because they are spoiled and have a deeply ingrained sense of entitlement without ever having to work very hard themselves or accomplish anything (see Bush family)
      • Revised Mel Simon estate suit
        The continuing full employment program for lawyers.
      • Cat Fight
        Betcha the attroney's are secretly smiling from ear to ear in the inside. This is "better" than any soap on TV.
      • LEAVE CHARITY ALONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        Mr.Simon, would not leave his children out,or leave the charity.
      • Bren is evil
        Those who think the kids are upset about the change, well they are. Bren obviously was in this marriage for Whats in it for me only. She was well provided for along with the things that Mr. Simon felt most about. The kids are only seeking to restore what was orginally there, not grabbing up more money like that evil Bren.
      • If true. . .
        If these allegations are true, why did the children permit the spouse to persist in her behavior? The children certainly have the means to seek guardianship of an abused elderly parent.
      • Mel's family
        Mel's family is right. Bren is not a nice person. Mel loved his kids and qouldn't have given away their money. They are hard working and are caring people. They adored their father.
      • hobbled
        kinda reminds me of the movie Misery
      • MEL SIMON

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