Herb Simon: Indiana Business Leader

Herb Simon was born October 23, 1934 in New York.  The Indianapolis business leader is currently the chairman and chief executive of Pacers Sports and Entertainment, and the operation’s sole owner.  He also runs the Simon Property Group, a lucrative development group that specializes in building malls.  Simon’s brother Mel was formerly his partner in both endeavors, but he passed away in 2009.

It was Mel who originally came to Indianapolis.  He was stationed at Fort Benjamin Harrison while in the Army in 1953, and after his service, decided to settle down in Indy.  After working for leasing agent Albert J. Frankel for the latter part of the 1950’s, Simon formed Melvin Simon & Associates, bringing his brother Herb into the business as well.  The business incorporated in 1960, with Mel taking two-thirds ownership, and Herb owning the rest.

Their first foray into developing strip malls was Southgate Plaza in Bloomington, Indiana, and they proved so adept at it they began developing enclosed malls within five years.  In 1983, the brothers were approached by Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut about buying the struggling Indiana Pacers of the National Basketball Association.  Hudnut feared that if out-of-town buyers were to purchase the team, the Pacers would be moved out of Indianapolis.  The Simon’s seized the opportunity to save the Pacers, and within 10 years, along with the help of Reggie Miller, had turned the moribund franchise into a yearly title contender.

In 1993 the Simon Property Group went public, raising nearly $1 billion, which at the time was the largest real estate stock offering ever.  Three years later they had a $3 billion merger with De Bartolo Realty Corp, and in the process became the nation’s dominant shopping center developer.  The brothers bought the Fashion Mall at Keystone at the Crossing in the late 90’s, giving them ownership in six of the seven regional shopping malls in Indianapolis, including the Circle City Mall in downtown Indy.  The corporation also owns and operates the Mall of American in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

After Mel’s death, Herb purchased the remaining shares of the Pacers, and according to the Indianapolis Business Journal promised that “the blue and gold will play in the Circle City for many years to come.”  He is currently the 317th richest American according to Forbes, and of the most important of all famous Indianapolis people.