Melvin Simon, 82, Dies; Commercial Real Estate Magnate Co-Owned Indiana Pacers

Associated Press
Sunday, September 20, 2009

Melvin Simon, 82, the son of a New York City tailor who started what is now the country's largest shopping mall company and owned the NBA's Indiana Pacers with his brother, died Sept. 16. The cause of death was not reported.

Mr. Simon's company, Simon Property Group, has full or partial ownership of more than 300 shopping malls in the United States, Europe and Japan. His interests extended to politics and Hollywood. He and his second wife, Bren, were major Democratic Party donors, and Mr. Simon also produced the raunchy teen comedy "Porky's."

But Mr. Simon's main business was building and operating enclosed suburban shopping malls across the country, netting him a fortune that Forbes magazine estimated this year at $1.3 billion. He also gave $50 million for Indiana University's cancer center and $10 million to the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Mr. Simon settled in Indianapolis in the 1950s, after being stationed nearby in the Army. He started Melvin Simon and Associates with his younger brother, Herbert, in 1960. The company opened the Mall of America in a Minneapolis suburb in 1992 and operated the huge mall until its interest in 2006.

The Simon brothers were also credited with keeping professional basketball in Indianapolis when they bought the Pacers in 1983 at the behest of city leaders to head off a deal that could have moved the team to Sacramento.

In 2007, the Simon brothers stepped down as co-chairmen of the Simon Property Group and turned the chairmanship over to Melvin Simon's oldest son, David, who had been its chief executive since 1995.

Mr. Simon said he was "absolutely flabbergasted" when "Porky's" -- with its scenes of teenage boys spying on girls in a locker room shower and visiting a brothel -- became a big hit in 1982.

His time as a Hollywood movie producer was marred when his 25-year-old daughter, Deborah, was kidnapped in 1981 from outside her parents' Beverly Hills mansion. She escaped unharmed the next day, and police arrested the gunman, who picked her at random and then demanded a $500,000 ransom.

Mr. Simon's marriage to Bess Meshulam Simon ended in divorce. A son from his second marriage, Joshua Max Simon, died in 1999.

Survivors include his wife of 37 years, Bren Burns Simon; a son; three daughters; two brothers; and 10 grandchildren.

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