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Court of Appeals dismisses Bren Simon's appeal

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has dismissed Bren Simon’s petition seeking to reverse a lower court’s ruling that removed her as interim trustee of her late husband’s $2 billion estate.

Simon, the widow of mall magnate Melvin Simon, in January asked the higher court to overturn Hamilton Superior Judge William J. Hughes’ decision late last year.

The three-member appeals court dismissed the appeal April 15, according to an order signed by Chief Judge Margret G. Robb.

In removing Bren as trustee, Judge Hughes cited her decision to distribute $13 million from the estate to herself without notifying other trust beneficiaries, a move she later tried to recast as a loan. Among Bren's other questionable decisions: paying her attorneys more than $3 million from the estate without the court's approval, and moving to convert more than $500 million worth of ownership units in Simon Property Group Inc. without appropriate professional advice, the judge wrote.

Attorneys for Bren argued that she served capably as executor and trustee of the estate of her late husband, pointing to a series of moves she has signed off on, including the transfer of her husband's stake in the Indiana Pacers and moves to appraise the value of a vast array of holdings.

Retired Indiana Supreme Court Justice Theodore R. Boehm was appointed trustee in her place.

The plaintiff in the case is Melvin's daughter Deborah Simon, who claims her stepmother coerced Melvin to make changes to his estate plan in February 2009, seven months before he died at age 82.

Bren has claimed in court filings that the changes to the will reflected Melvin’s desire to compensate her for a drop in the company’s stock price and a reduction in the cash dividend.

This story originally ran in the April 18, 2011, issue of IBJ Daily.

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