SELLER: Bren Simon
LOCATION: Los Angeles (Bel Air), CA
SIZE: 19,584 square feet, 8 bedrooms, 16 bathrooms
YOUR MAMAS NOTES: Buckle up babies, this is going to be a long and bumpy ride.
On the 16th of September of 2009, burly and bearded mall magnate Mel Simon went to meet the great property developer in the sky. Just five months later his second wife and widow Bren Simon listed the couple’s palatial pile in Bel Air with a spine chilling asking price of $50,000,000. So we thought it might be fun for the children to not only have a look-see at the Simon’s sumptuous spread in Bel Air but also to have a roam around some of the other properties in the wildly rich widow’s real estate portfolio.
Before we get to the real estate, Your Mama would be remiss in our “reporting” if we did not first discuss the increasingly litigious kerfuffle over Mister Simon’s billion dollar-plus fortune. The warring parties are, as y’all might expect, the Widda Simon and her three step-children. The Indiana-based Mister Simon, who co-owned the Indiana Pacers basketball team for many years, was one of the richest men in the Midwest with a staggering fortune that has been estimated between one point three to well over two billion bucks.
According to multiple previous reports, until about seven months before Mister Simon expired at the ripe old age of 82, his will granted one-third of his fortune directly to Missus Simon. Another third was to be placed in a trust with all proceeds flowing to Missus Simon and upon her passing the principal of the trust would then be divided between Mister Simon’s three offspring from his first marriage and a daughter born to Missus Simon from her first marriage. Mister and Missus Simon were and are well known and generous philanthropists. They once gave a stunning $50,000,000 to Indiana University, twenty five of which was earmarked for cancer research. In accordance with and continuing their tradition of big giving, the remaining third of Mister Simon’s fortune was to go into charitable trusts that would fund tens of millions of dollars in donations to charities every year. After a predetermined period of time, any funds remaining in the charitable trust(s) were to be divided among Mister Simon’s children.
The meat of the ugly dispute between Missus Simon and her trio of adult step-children is that just months before his death Mister Simon signed new documents that changed the terms of his long standing estate plan. Much to the chagrin of the Simon siblings, the new documents give Missus Simon half of the estate directly as opposed to just one-third. That’s a difference, kiddies, of a couple hundred million clams, so you can see why everyone is so bothered and betwixt over the issue.
In early January of 2010, one of Mister Simon’s children filed a lawsuit that claims that in the spring of 2009 her dear departed daddy was dealing with dementia and was far too compromised to sign a new will. The lawsuit states that Mister Simon’s signing would have required someone hold a pen in his hand and assist in moving his arm as he “signed” the documents.
Misssus Simon has, natch, filed her own lawsuit. Interestingly, Missus Simon’s filing does not dispute that her dying husband needed help with the signature due to his “Parkinsonian symptoms.” Missus Simon also contends that although he needed assistance holding the pen, Mister Simon was in his right mind, understood the ramifications of the alterations and was the captain steering the ship that would reassign a huge chunk of his fortune.
Missus Simon declares and explains in her court documents that Mister Simon changed his will in a manner that greatly increased her share of the estate in part because at the time of the signing the economy was swirling down the terlit and due do dwindling stock prices Mister Simon’s net worth and income had declined considerably. He was, she says, concerned about her having enough income to sustain her lifestyle. At the time of the signing, the shares of the Simon Property Group, a publicly traded enterprise of which Mister Simon owned a significant chunk, had dipped to $38 per share. Since the new will was put in place the share price has bounced back to over $70 per share, increasing the size of Mister Simon’s fortune by hundreds of millions of dollars. Missus Simon also claims in her filing that an additional reason Mister Simon opted to alter his will was due to concerns that his three children would not act in the step-mommy’s best financial interest should they be in a situation in which they would have some control over her financial affairs or business interests. Oh dear. Ouch! That’s an ugly stab in an open wound, ain’t it?
That, children, is where things currently stand in the legal stand off between Missus Simon and her step-children and is the pedestal on which we stand during our discussion of Missus Simon’s hoity toity habitat in Bel Air.
Property records show that in August of 2006, Indiana based Mister and Missus Simon laid out $27,500,275 for their West Coast crib that occupies a prime position on Bellagio Road in a prestigious old Bel Air East Gate location. At first Your Mama thought we didn’t even need to pull our bejeweled abacus out of is bedazzled case to figure out that Missus Simon rather audaciously thinks her big ol‘ beast of a house has nearly doubled in value despite having bought it at the tippy-top of a white hot real estate market that has since cooled considerably. However, a bit more peeping and poking around the property records reveals that in June of 2007 Mister and Missus Simon bought the adjacent property for $8,800,000. The couple proceeded to knock the the existing house down and replace it with a private parking area. That’s right, a parking lot. Taking the addition of the adjacent property into account brings Missus Simon’s outlay for the entire estate for just over $36,000,000 less any renovations, repairs, upgrades or do overs. Even still, my little lemon bars, slapping that fifty million smacker asking price on the property in a molasses-y market takes some serious real estate cajones, which Missus Simon clearly has.
Before we get into some details let’s look at Missus Simon’s house by the numbers: the compound is comprised of two lots that cover approximately 1.5 acres. The house, according to the tax man, stands three stories and measures a monstrous 19,584 square feet. Listing information indicated the royalty worthy abode contains subterranean parking for 10 automobiles, 7 fireplaces, 1 elevator, 8 bedrooms and an astonishing 16 poopers that surely require Missus Simon keep a full time minimum wage gurl who does nuthin‘ but scrub terlits all day long. The master bedroom alone, according to listing information, spans 2,000 square feet, which is almost as large as the average American home. Think about that for a moment. If that’s not enough to get some righteous dander up, we don’t know what is.
A long, gated, crushed granite driveway leads to a narrow motor court that gives way to to a second motor court through an arched tunnel. The exterior appears to be clad in limestone.. Listen, don’t none of you children go repeating that like you know what you’re talking about because we don’t really know what the house is clad in, we’re just guessing it’s limestone of some sort. Anyhoo, the lavishly appointed interiors include a lovely if stuffy looking living room with an over-sized herringbone patterned hardwood floor, a wood coffered ceiling, and a slew of French doors that open out to the terraces and gardens the ring the residence.
Other public rooms include a banquet hall sized formal dining room and a library with intricately detailed and inlaid wood paneling and celadon accented day-core. Family quarters include a gourmet kitchen that we presume Missus Simon has seen only a few times, a family room, a media/music room with leathers chairs and horrendous wall to wall carpeting woven with a swirling pattern of movie film, a billiard room, a wine cellar, and work out facilities that contain gym equipment, a spa, sauna and swim pool. There is also, according to listing information, an attached guest apartment and a poolside lounge.
A rectangular swimming pool has been wedged into the backyard between the house and the golf course of the Bel Air Country Club. But, honestly chickens, Your Mama has a tough time seeing the the well preserved Missus Simon out of door let alone slathered in cocoa butter and catching a tan in her buh–keenee but that’s really neither here not there about our subject matter, is it?
Missus Simon’s nearby neighbors include Gary Winnick and his $90,000,000 estate, Sandy Gallin and his freshly rehabbed house on Siena Way that’s listed at 26.95 million clams, and semiconductor tycoon Walter “Jerry” Sanders the Third. So the property is in proper company to fetch a high price. A tumble to the real estate listings shows that there really isn’t a lot of competition out there in the $50,000,000 market. In addition to any of the major estates being shopped around off market, there’s Iris Cantor’s pile on St. Cloud Road listed at $53,000,000, there’s the Yorkin estate on Delfern that was listed this week with an asking price of $49,500,000 and there’s that insane 30 bedroom and 40 bathroom monstrosity on Nimes Road listed at $36,000,000. A small number of homes in that price range might seem like a good thing since it creates a certain sort of demand. But let’s get serious for a second butter beans, how many filthy rich people are going to throw real estate caution to the wind in this kind of slumpy, dumpy economy and opt for a fifty million dollar manse when there scads of mansions in the twenty to thirty million dollar range? Plus, given that there hasn’t been a fifty million dollar sale in Los Angeles in years, Your Mama thinks Missus Simon and her real estate people just might be in for a Sisyphusian challenge.
Now then, let’s move on to some of the Simon’s other super luxe digs. Unfortunately Your Mama simply does not have the time, energy or–we confess–the inclination to perform a full accounting of all the many other properties around the U.S. of A. owned by Mel and Bren Simon. Instead we’ve opted to narrow our focus and touch on just a few of the more important properties that are currently or were recently owned by the Mister and Missus Simon who as a couple were, clearly, a couple of unrepentant real estate size queens.
The house on Bellagio Road is not the Simon’s first foray into insanely pricey property in the platinum triangle. In October of 2006, just after buying the Bel Air house she’s currently looking to unload, the Simons sold a vacant parcel on Bel Air Road for $8,500,000 to her then neighbor, media mogul and multi-billionaire Jerrold Perenchio. As we all know from the run down Your Mama did on Mister Perenchio’s real estate holdings in late January of 2010, the high priced property vacuum owns no less than 6 parcels on Bel Air Road that comprise his elephantine estate, the mammoth main house of which was originally used for the exterior shots of the classic program The Beverly Hillbillies.
The following year Missus Simon rid herself of a 10,774 square foot triple story residence adjacent to the vacant Bel Air Road parcel she sold to Mister Perenchio. Missus Simon scooped up the elaborate mansion, which was modeled after Le Petit Trianon in Versailles and contains 9 bedrooms and 12 poopers, in June of 2005 for $13,000,000. She sold the hulking house in August of 2007 to big biznessman and hotelier David Adelipour for $16,000,000.
Records also show that in January of 2007 Missus Bren bought a modest home in Encino, CA that happens to be just down the road a piece from Joe Simpson….That would be Ashlee and Jessica’s daddy. The 3,504 square foot house has 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms and we can’t think of a single reason Missus Bren might buy this house unless it was to house her staff.
In 1986, Mister and Missus Simon pulled themselves up to the big boy real estate table in Palm Beach, FL when they forked over about $6,000,000 to buy Villa de Venezia, a monumentally scaled oceanfront mansion built in 1929 by Harold K. Vanderbilt (shown above). Technically, the manse is in Manalapan, just south of Palm Beach, but anyhoo…. It seems almost comical now, but at that time the purchase represented the second highest price paid for a private residence in Palm Beach County. The politically active pair hosted many events at the dee–luxe estate including a dinner for then president Bill Clinton and later a dinner for his wife and senator to be Hillary Clinton.
In 2000, the Mister and Missus Simon sold the 52-room pile for $29,900,000 to Veronica and Randolph Hearst. This was just months before Mister Hearst breathed his last breath. Many of the children will surely recall that despite many machinations, delays and a hurried sell off of art and jewelry, Miz Hearst lost the staggeringly huge and elegant house to the hungry jaws of foreclosure. It appears to Your Mama that the Simons did not purchase another house in the Palm Beach area.
In addition to several condos in particularly posh parts of Colorado, records show that in May of 1995 Mister and Missus Simon spent $5,990,000 for a 10,328 square foot ski house in Aspen, CO that sits on 5.43 acres and contains 6 bedrooms and 9 bathrooms. Missus Bren continues, according to the tax man, to own the property.
The Simon family seat has long been their unimaginably vast estate on Ditch Road in swanky Carmel, IN that is surrounded by its own private 10 green golf course that can played in a variety of ways that give it 27 different holes. Previous reports indicate Mister Simon bought the property–or at least began buying up the multi-parcel property–in 1973. Eventually the estate ballooned to more than 100 acres. In 1999, the original house burned to the ground and Mister and Missus Simon replaced it with a behemoth 43,000-plus square foot mega-manse they dubbed Asherwood. In addition to all the usual accouterments such as tennis court, swimming pool, guest house and perfectly manicured gardens, Asherwood includes a 2,700 square foot spa, and a 1,300 square foot library.
There have been whispers and reports that Mister and Missus Simon were considering donating Asherwood to Indiana University, but the $1,000,000 per year required to maintain the sprawling property was a concern for the learning institution and an additional cash gift to be used for maintenance would likely be included if such a donation were to be made. It makes sense that the property would be donated because, seriously sweeties, how many people can afford–or even want–a fifty or hundred million dollar estate? In Indiana.
(Don’t none of you Hoosier people get your panties is a bunch. Your Mama’s momma has kinfolk in Indiana and we have made many wonderful trips to your fair state. While Your Mama could never live stomach living that far from an ocean, we always found the folks in those parts to be incredibly open and hospitable.)
In 2008, according to previous reports, the couple initiated plans to downsize and purchased a Beaux-Arts style residence in the nearby village of West Clay. The couple paid around $2,500,000 for the three story, 4 bedroom and 4 bathroom residence. It’s unclear if either Mister or Missus Simon spent a single night in the home nor does Your Mama have any idea whatsoever if Missus Simon plans on keeping or occupying the property.
Your Mama doesn’t have a clue what Missus Simon plans to do or where she plans to live now that she’s an incredibly wealthy single gal about town but wherever she lands, it will surely be big, opulent and far more expensive than most people could even dream of spending on a home.
source: Jerry Jolton / Coldwell Bank Previews International and Bing (aerials)