Sparks fly at Simon estate hearing

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Details of years of squabbling between family members of shopping mall magnate Mel Simon have begun to emerge in a court battle over the late billionaire's estate.

Attorneys for Mel's widow Bren and Mel's children from a previous marriage took swipes at each other in opening arguments at a Thursday hearing in Hamilton County to determine whether Bren should remain as the estate's trustee. The hearing, the latest step in a bitter battle over a fortune estimated to be worth about $2 billion, was expected to last all day.

An attorney for Bren said his client, who was married to Mel for 37 years, believed a long-simmering dispute was coming to an end after Mel died on Sept. 16, 2009.

She had withdrawn as a candidate for a U.S. Ambassador position to care for Mel after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that June, and opened her Asherwood estate to Deborah Simon and her siblings so they could be with their father in his final days.

"It appeared that peace had returned to the family," said Michael Ciresi, a partner in Minneapolis-based Robbins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi LLP.

Not for long.

In November, Bren received a letter from an attorney representing Deborah and her siblings Cynthia Simon-Skjodt and David Simon, the chairman and CEO of Simon Property Group, asking her to step down as trustee.

Deborah's attorney, Barry Simon, who is not related to the family, argued Thursday that Bren is not qualified or capable of managing the estate. He pointed to a secret recording she allegedly made of trust advisers, her taking of $13 million in an unauthorized advance from the trust, and her history of harsh interactions with Mel's children.

He quoted from several e-mails, including one in which Bren allegedly said of Deborah, Cynthia and David, "I hope they rot in hell."

Ciresi said Bren regrets her harsh words, but that harsh words were said on both sides, and the animosity has not colored Bren's approach to her role as trustee.

He said Bren was holding several e-mails, too, but hopes not to introduce them in court.

"I don't think Mel Simon would have liked to see these e-mails put in the public record," Ciresi said.

Deborah contends her father was suffering from dementia and didn’t understand what he was doing when he revised his estate 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 earlier marriage and left charitable gifts stipulated in prior versions to Bren’s discretion.

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

This story will be updated on ibj.com.


  • Poor Simon Kids
    My heart goes out to the Simon children. They had planned on daddy continuing to support their arrogant lives. Some times things don't work out the way we had thought they would. Bren was married to this man for 37 yrs not 5 yrs. Who was always by his side? Not his kids...,, greed will come around to hurt you. His kids look like greedy, spoiled, ungrateful scoundrels.
  • Don't be so quick to judge...
    This is a battle of the greeds! The Simon children are willing to walk over anyone and anything in their way for $$! Bren clearly has learned this tactic from them. David has no idea how to treat others with respect or compassion. He runs Simon Property Group by placing fear in the employee instead of earning respect. SPG has bought their way out of many employment lawsuits under the table and has a HR staff that are bascially puppets of David. Neither side is worthy of a win and should be forced to pay the judge and court staff from their own pockets as the taxpayers pay enough for them!!
    • Satire DOES Rock
      I agree. Satire DOES rock. I guess I'm lashing out at the ridiculous comments over and over and over that are just hurtful or provoking that are the written equivalent of "that guy" who loves the sound of his own voice.

      I think comments should offer insight into the story or provide a genuine reaction, NOT be a lowest common denominator sleaze fest.

      Of course, I do not publish IBJ nor is my opinion more important than anyone else's so I will now relax as suggested.
    • Satire Rocks
      Joshua-Hey buddy relax, it's called satire. Most IBJ readers get it..we are 99% certain that the Mayor didn't write those comments.
      • Names

        Like this?
      • Josh
        How do you know that wasn't really Mayor Ballard?

        PS Get the stick out of your.....
      • Comment Trolls
        If you're going to post comments, you should post as yourself and not hide behind a moniker that misrepresents the views of a public official. IBJ is the place where serious people read and debate the issues. Go be a troll somewhere else, "Lame Coward Calling Himself Mayor Ballard."
        • What Can I Do To Help?
          Maybe if I gave each of the kids $10MM a year to help them cover expenses? Afterall, that's what Unkie Herb got.

        Post a comment to this story

        We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
        You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
        Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
        No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
        We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

        Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

        Sponsored by

        facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

        Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
        Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
        Subscribe to IBJ
        1. Angela IS the best RD

        2. We are a nation of speed. All of our younger lives are filled with deadlines, quotas and bottom lines. We start to ease out of the pressured rat-race when we finally see "retirement." The most enjoyable travel on the planet is passenger rail service. Indy to Chicago does not beat Megabus or Southwest Airlines in speed. Passenger rail however has the best seating, mammoth legroon, seat backs that recline to more than 45 degrees and employers that really want you to return as a customer. Indiana municipalities need to maintain subsidies to support this transportation mode. Losing it is loss for all of us.

        3. Good day! I just want to testify how i got my loan from Mr. Eric Lefkofsky after i applied several times from various loan lenders who claimed to also testify right in this forum,i thought the testimonies where real and i applied but they never gave me loan. I was in need of an urgent loan to start a business and i applied from various loan lenders who promised to help but they never gave me the loan. Until a friend of mine introduce me to this popular Mr. Eric Lefkofsky who promised to help me and indeed he did as he promised without any form of delay. I never thought there are still reliable loan lenders until i met Mr. Eric lefkofsky who indeed helped me with the loan and changed my belief. I promised to share this testimony after I got my loan. I don't know if you are in any way in need of a genuine and urgent loan,free feel to contact Mr. Eric Lefkofsky via their email{grouponfunding@hotmail.com}

        4. Its a THUG issue. Bleecker Street and NYX are thug bars. They attract thugs of all races. Places that attract thugs need to be kicked out of Broad Ripple. Ain't nobody got time for that!

        5. Hello everyone, My name is Marian Gareth, I am from the Texas, United State, am here to testify of how i got my loan from Mr Andre Frank {frankloancompany@yahoo.com} after i applied Two times from various loan lenders who claimed to be lenders right in this forum,i thought their lending where real and i applied but they never gave me loan. I was in need of an urgent loan to start a business and i applied from various loan lenders who promised to help but they never gave me the loan.Until a friend of mine introduce me to Mr Andre Frank the C.E.O of Andre Frank Loan Company who promised to help me with a loan of my desire and he really did as he promised without any form of delay, I never thought there are still reliable loan lenders until i met Mr Andre Frank, who really help me with my loan and changed my lief for better. I don't know if you are in need of an urgent loan, free feel to contact Mr Andre Frank on his email{ Frankloancompany@yahoo.com} for help