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Thread: Great article on the Simons!

  1. #1
    Pacer Junky Will Galen's Avatar
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    Default Great article on the Simons!

    http://www.indystar.com/sports/pacers/

    [size=18:216345425c]Shunning the spotlight[/size]
    As the low-key owners of the Pacers, the Simon have perfected the practice of staying behind the scenes.

    By Phil Richards
    phil.richards@indystar.com
    May 22, 2004

    When Mel and Herb Simon bought the Indiana Pacers in 1983, their purpose was to save the NBA club, not run it, and they certainly weren't interested in seeing their picture in the newspaper or having their thoughts aired on the 11 p.m. news.

    "Not like Cuban," Mel volunteered.

    "We're a little more aggressive in shopping center development," Herb explained.

    Unlike Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner who seems to get as much face time as his players, the Simons have remained resolutely and stubbornly behind the scenes. They hired Donnie Walsh, CEO and president of Pacers Sports & Entertainment, and they allow him to run the franchise.

    That doesn't mean they aren't involved, and it definitely doesn't mean they don't care. The Pacers' owners are fans.

    Herb splits time between Indianapolis and his Santa Barbara, Calif., residence, but if he's in town and his team is playing, he's beside Walsh in the stands.

    "He sits there very quietly," Walsh said, "and you can tell that every cell is quivering."

    David Stern knows the Simons and their Pacers passion. Shortly after being named NBA commissioner in 1984, Stern visited Market Square Arena to see the Pacers play.

    "We were having a hotly contested game, and the next thing I know, Mel is headed for the middle of the floor with Herb pulling him back," Stern said.

    Mel was wont to offer officials the use of his eyeglasses in those days. That night, he attempted to deliver them.

    "Now whenever I get there," Stern said, "I make sure that Mel is locked in the suite."

    A winning formula

    Whatever, it works. The Pacers have become one of the NBA's elite franchises. They went 61-21 in the regular season, the league's best record. They are playoff participants for the 14th time in the past 15 years and will face the Detroit Pistons tonight in the first game of the Eastern Conference finals.

    Mel, 77, watches from his suite, but no lock is necessary. He and Herb prefer the background. Walsh said he can "count on both hands" the number of times the Simons have visited the locker room during Walsh's 20 years with the team.

    "Bad luck," Mel said with a cackle.

    "There are some rare occasions we go in," Herb, 69, said. "For the championship we'll go in."

    The Simons were seated side by side in Herb's handsome hardwood-paneled office atop the National City Center tower, headquarters of Simon Property Group, the largest real estate and retail estate investment trust in the United States. Family photos and mementos from a lifetime in business and sport were tidily arrayed.

    The mood was light, and the brothers' affection for one another was obvious, and the opportunity to see it rare.

    The Simons seldom consent to be interviewed and photographed together, and while they are aggressive and singularly successful in their dealings with their shopping center empire, they are not flamboyant there, either.

    After 17 years with the team, shooting guard Reggie Miller, the perpetual Pacer, knows and appreciates their quiet ways. He wondered aloud if any of "our younger guys" had any relationship with the Simons.

    Not fifth-year forward Jonathan Bender. He said he has been briefly introduced to Mel. He has not met Herb.

    "I've been with an owner that comes into the pregame meeting," said Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, who during the past 20 years has played or coached for six NBA teams. "Herb and Mel Simon are at the top of the list because they have a real presence with the team and with the community on the one hand, and on the other they have an understatedness.

    "I think it's appreciated by the players."

    Call them invisible, but don't call them uninvolved. Mel maintains some distance, but Herb consults with Walsh almost daily. Herb not only has served on the NBA's board of governors, he has chaired it. He remains a member of the league's audit and advisory finance committees. He was an adviser during the establishment of the NBA Store, the league's merchandising arm.

    "He has been involved in virtually every major decision in the NBA for close to two decades," Stern said. "And he's always pleading the Pacers' cause in every league meeting, to the point where I have to go over and use a ruler to rap his knuckles."

    In the beginning

    The Pacers were a struggling franchise in 1983. Their 20-62 record represented a long fall from their proud ABA days and the three championships they claimed before that league's nine-year run ended in 1976.

    Pacers owner Sam Nassi was awash in red ink and looking to bail. He had all but finalized a deal that would have sent the Pacers to Sacramento, Calif., when Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut approached the Simons.

    Hudnut feared that losing the Pacers would wound the city's morale, relegate it to minor-league status nationally and cripple the Downtown revitalization drive that had begun under his predecessor, Richard Lugar. In an effort to keep the Pacers in Indianapolis, Hudnut approached the Hulman family and the late Dave Thomas, a Columbus, Ohio, resident and Wendy's restaurant founder.

    Both declined. The Simons were a last resort. They showed their gratitude to the city in which they had made their start -- and prospered.

    "The last time I was in Herbie's office, he looked at me and grinned and said, 'Well, I've got to do it, don't I?' " Hudnut recalled.

    Had the Simons declined and the Pacers moved, the Colts might have looked elsewhere when they fled Baltimore for Indianapolis in 1984.

    For $11 million, according to Forbes Magazine, the Simons got $7 million in debt and a team that had sold 1,255 season tickets the previous year. The transaction was greeted with enthusiasm in the media and the community.

    "Everybody was excited about us getting the team," Herb said, "except we weren't so sure we were. We didn't know what we were getting into."

    What the Simons knew was business, and leadership, and delegation of responsibility. In 1986, they elevated Walsh from assistant coach to general manager. They invested his appointment with full confidence and authority.

    "The first time I met with them, I spoke to them about it," Walsh recalled. "How do you want me to run this? I can run it in a first-class manner. I can run it in a 'Ma and Pa' manner.

    "They wanted it run in a first-class manner, so I've always proceeded that way."

    Building a better future

    It required six years of drafting and building and a rotation of coaches from George Irvine to Jack Ramsay to Dick Versace to Bob Hill to Larry Brown, but the Pacers finally proclaimed their arrival with a run to the Eastern Conference finals in 1993-94, a feat they matched the following season.

    The impact resounded throughout the community.

    "In 1993, many businesses moved out of Downtown; we had a lot of vacancies," said Tamara Zahn, president of Indianapolis Downtown Inc., an organization dedicated to city development. "But the 1994-95 season was a really special time. Circle Centre mall (a Simon property) was just starting and it was . . . the Eastern Conference finals. Everybody was excited and Downtown was energized.

    "I really think that the momentum changed at that time; that's when people started believing Downtown was going to work out."

    Sound management, good business principles, a lot of patience and the magic of franchise appreciation have nicely covered the Simons' early losses. Forbes puts the Pacers' value at $280 million, with 2002-03 revenues and operating income at $94 million.

    That doesn't mean it all happened without turmoil.

    "We fight all the time," Mel barked.

    "It's our way of doing business," Herb explained.

    The Simons' individual offices spill off a roomy suite, and the doors generally are open. When Mel and Herb engage in a discussion, friends say, they do so without leaving their seats. They shout back and forth, office to office, usually with full fervor.

    Whether or not to keep the Pacers was an occasional subject during the early days.

    "We got in discussions," Herb conceded, "but we never seriously considered doing anything."

    Come a long way

    The Simons are Brooklyn, N.Y., natives who were reared in the Bronx. Their father, Max, was a tailor.

    Mel came to Indianapolis in 1953, when he was serving in the U.S. Army and was assigned to Fort Benjamin Harrison. After his discharge, he went to work as a leasing agent for the Albert Frankel Co. and was joined in Indianapolis by Herb, who also worked for Frankel.

    In 1960, Mel, with Herb, incorporated Melvin Simon & Associates. They began developing strip centers connected with grocery stores and drugstores. Southgate Plaza in Bloomington, Ind., was the first shopping center in an enterprise that now owns outright or has an interest in 247 properties in North America and another 47 in Europe. Simon Property Group, now run by Mel's son, CEO David Simon, is the largest mall owner in the United States.

    The Simons have come a long way from nothing. They have earned their pleasures.

    Herb favors travel. Mel loves golf. Mel built a golf course on the grounds of his Carmel estate, although knee and back problems limit the frequency with which he uses it.

    "He wants to play well. He tries hard," said Michael Browning, an Indianapolis developer who owns a golf course home just down the road from Mel in the Dominican Republic. "And he's fun to play with."

    Logo Athletic founder Tom Shine, now Reebok's vice president for Sports & Entertainment Worldwide, has been a friend of the Simons for 20 years. Shine was married in the Dominican Republic in 2000, amid the Pacers' run to the NBA Finals. Mel went to great lengths to assure a satellite hookup to his home.

    After the ceremony, the wedding party and 200 guests retired to Mel's for the reception. Soon enough, nearly everyone was jammed in the television room, rooting the Pacers past Milwaukee, their first-round opponent. No one was more intense than the Simons.

    "I walked out with Herb," Shine recalled, "and he said, 'Well, we won the game, but we missed your reception.' "

    Mel once owned a home in the Palm Beach, Fla., area, and for a time he commuted to work in Indianapolis. His jet taxied at 7 a.m. and he would walk into his office a few minutes after 9. Each day.

    Jim Browning (no relation to Michael) is a friend and business associate. During a visit to Mel's Florida residence, Mel's wife, Bren, mentioned that the house had 52 rooms, of which Mel had been in about five.

    "Why?" Browning asked.

    "She said, 'Well, he's got his favorite rooms, his favorite chairs, and he just doesn't need the rest of it.' "

    Browning was an original partner in the Indianapolis firm Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf, which served as coordinating architect on Circle Centre mall and has been involved in a number of Simon projects. Browning oversaw the landscaping of the back yard of Herb's Northside home. As such, he spotted an invoice for daffodils and tulip bulbs in an amount that might have financed construction of a small home. He called Herb to tell him the price was outrageous, that he was being gouged.

    "And Herb said, 'Will they be pretty?' " Browning recalled.

    "I said, 'Goodbye, Mr. Simon.' "

    "They live in lavish houses and have a lot of things," Browning continued, "but somehow I just don't read showoff in it, and they're very generous. Look in any direction in Indianapolis and you'll see something they helped out in some way."

    The Simons' most recent philanthropic gesture benefited Indiana University, of which David Simon is an alum. The brothers and their families donated $9 million earlier this month for construction of a life sciences research building on the Bloomington campus.

    Their Pacers exhibit the same generosity. During the past 10 years, the Pacers Foundation has given grants, scholarships and in-kind donations of $3.5 million to youth agencies throughout the state. Pacers Sports & Entertainment has given another $5.1 million.

    The giving began, one might say, in 1983 when the Simons saved the Pacers for Indianapolis.

    Enjoy them tonight. Mel and Herb certain will.


    Mel Simon
    Age: 77
    Hometown: Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., reared in the Bronx
    Family: Wife, Bren; children, David, Deborah, Cynthia, Tamme and Joshua; Joshua, also called Max, died in 1999 at age 25.
    Education: City College of New York, bachelor's
    Professional: Co-chairman, Simon Property Group
    History: Came to Indianapolis in 1953 while serving in the U.S. Army and assigned to Fort Benjamin Harrison. Stayed after military separation and worked as a lease representative for Albert Frankel Co., an Indianapolis shopping center developer. In 1960, incorporated his own real estate investment company, Melvin Simon & Associates, with his brother, Herb.

    Herb Simon
    Age: 69
    Hometown: Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., reared in the Bronx
    Family: Wife, Diane; children, Jennifer, Stephen, Sarah, Rachel, Asher
    Education: City College of New York, bachelor's
    Professional: Co-chairman, Simon Property Group
    History: Working with his brother, Mel, grew Melvin Simon & Associates into the nation's largest shopping center and mall owner, with 247 properties in North America and 47 in Europe. Company went public in 1993, when most of its properties were moved into Simon Property Group. Merged with DeBartolo Realty Group in 1996. Market capitalization of $29 billion.

  2. #2
    Boom Baby'er ABADays's Avatar
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    Default Re: Great article on the Simons!

    I have always thought they were the best owners in basketball - maybe all of sports. But . . . what the hell do you do with a 52-room house?
    The best exercise of the human heart is reaching down and picking someone else up.

  3. #3
    Administrator Unclebuck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Great article on the Simons!


    In the beginning

    The Pacers were a struggling franchise in 1983. Their 20-62 record represented a long fall from their proud ABA days and the three championships they claimed before that league's nine-year run ended in 1976.

    Pacers owner Sam Nassi was awash in red ink and looking to bail. He had all but finalized a deal that would have sent the Pacers to Sacramento, Calif., when Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut approached the Simons.

    Hudnut feared that losing the Pacers would wound the city's morale, relegate it to minor-league status nationally and cripple the Downtown revitalization drive that had begun under his predecessor, Richard Lugar. In an effort to keep the Pacers in Indianapolis, Hudnut approached the Hulman family and the late Dave Thomas, a Columbus, Ohio, resident and Wendy's restaurant founder.

    Both declined. The Simons were a last resort. They showed their gratitude to the city in which they had made their start -- and prospered.

    "The last time I was in Herbie's office, he looked at me and grinned and said, 'Well, I've got to do it, don't I?' " Hudnut recalled.

    Had the Simons declined and the Pacers moved, the Colts might have looked elsewhere when they fled Baltimore for Indianapolis in 1984.

    For $11 million, according to Forbes Magazine, the Simons got $7 million in debt and a team that had sold 1,255 season tickets the previous year. The transaction was greeted with enthusiasm in the media and the community.

    "Everybody was excited about us getting the team," Herb said, "except we weren't so sure we were. We didn't know what we were getting into."

    What the Simons knew was business, and leadership, and delegation of responsibility. In 1986, they elevated Walsh from assistant coach to general manager. They invested his appointment with full confidence and authority.

    "The first time I met with them, I spoke to them about it," Walsh recalled. "How do you want me to run this? I can run it in a first-class manner. I can run it in a 'Ma and Pa' manner.

    "They wanted it run in a first-class manner, so I've always proceeded that way."



    I just want to highlight this for the younger generation, certainly those under 25 years old and maybe 30 years old.

    I vididly remember in 1983, that the stories were not if the Pacers were going to move to California, but when. As the above article mentions, season ticket sales were under 2,000, average attendence was under 4,000 that season, the Pacers were gone. There was no doubt about it.

    I specifically remember reading an article riding home on the school bus in 1993, the headline read something to the effect, Pacers set to leave city. The article was talking about the Pacers in the past tense, it was a done deal.

    Pacers during this time had to make trades not based on talent, but based on money, the PLAYOFFS were not even in the realm of possibility.

    The worst part of all this is that the average citizen of Indianapolis did not care, there were more Laker and Celtic fans than Pacers fans. The pacers in most peoples eyes were the laughingstocks of the city. Most people did noy care if they left or not, and when the Simon's did buy the team, sure there were people who were ecstatic, but there were more who figured the Simon's were stupid to invest in the Pacers.


    So for those fans who know nothing of the pre 1994 season, or even those fans who know nothing before 1986, where this team has come from, and how tenious the situation was.

    Being a Pacers fan in 1982, 1983, 1984 was not easy, and I think that is why I am such a huge fan today, because I was not around during the ABA days, I became a fan during the early 80's and because of that I take the pacers very personally, very personally.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Great article on the Simons!

    http://www.indystar.com/sports/pacers/preview/

    Not only a good article on them, but the Indystar guys really went all out in letting everyone know the effort time and in-depth research that goes into this game of basketball. Several good aricles on Pacer personel all the way from the Video guys to Advance Scout and how they make him stay in motel 6's (I'd kill for that job) But awesome stuff. That occupied like a hour of my morning reading all that.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Great article on the Simons!

    Back in 1984 at the age of 9... I saw my first Pacer game, cause my dad's boss had season tix (still has em too) and would hook his employees up. I was a laker fan all the way, Magic Johnson was my hero, my dad went to Michigan State, so that's how it was in my familly.

    So I was one of those guys you mention lol. Anyway first game I saw was the Lakers vs the Pacers in 84 I think. Kareem was there Magic Worthy I think. It was awesome as a 9 year old. Lakers won at the buzzer and my dad's boss got mad cause I was cheering lol.

    I really became a big pacer fan a few years later when they first made the playoffs vs the Hawks. I remember it wasnt on tv or something so our whole family sat around the radio listening to it ... good times.. we even went to one of those games way up in the rafters and everyone was chain smoking cigs up there... and who knows what else.. we couldn't even tell what was going on in the game we were so way up there.
    That was the last time we did that...
    er anyway go pacers, I'm sure glad it aint the Sacremento Pacers

  6. #6
    Running with the Big Boys BillS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Great article on the Simons!

    I still have my champagne opening night tux t-shirt from that first game in 83 with the Simons as owners.

    I remember how energized the crowd was, how there was a feeling that this could be a special franchise once again, and how we believed that Mel and Herb thought so, too.

    It took some time, we were the Indianapolis .500's for a long time yet, but the seeds were planted right then and there.
    BillS

    "Every time I pitched it was like throwing gasoline on a fire. Pkkw! Pkkw! Pkkw! Pkkw!"
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  7. #7
    year of the black rainbow obnoxiousmodesty's Avatar
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    Default Re: Great article on the Simons!

    I really enjoyed reading that article. I'm 22, have been a Pacers fan all my life, but I don't know a lot about the history of the franchise. Well, not as much as I wish I knew. Furthermore, I wish I could have lived with the Pacers from the start because I know the journey this team has taken since its inception has been a special one. It's hard to really understand something if you haven't lived through it. Then again, in 20 years a new generation of Pacers fans will be asking me about the glory days with Reggie and company, and I'll have something special to hold onto as well. Good stuff.
    Take me out to the black, tell 'em I ain't coming back. Burn the land and boil the sea, you can't take the sky from me.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Great article on the Simons!

    The Reggie years were/are definately the best years

  9. #9
    Grumpy Old Man (PD host) able's Avatar
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    Default Re: Great article on the Simons!

    I read the article early this morning, and was impressed, great write and even better read.

    Franchise to be proud of supporting!
    So Long And Thanks For All The Fish.

    If you've done 6 impossible things today?
    Then why not have Breakfast at Milliways!


  10. #10

    Default Re: Great article on the Simons!

    The Reggie years were/are definately the best years
    Ahh, the Reggie years... we had a good time then, didn't we, BR? Those were the salad days. Remember when we used to go to the games together? You, me and Shep Proudfoot. That crazy Injun could drink some beer, huh? Good times.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Great article on the Simons!

    The Reggie years were/are definately the best years
    Ahh, the Reggie years... we had a good time then, didn't we, BR? Those were the salad days. Remember when we used to go to the games together? You, me and Shep Proudfoot. That crazy Injun could drink some beer, huh? Good times.
    I remember how Reggie would stop over by our seats and give us all noogies and say "hmph, you kids stay off drugs now mkay?"

  12. #12

    Default Re: Great article on the Simons!

    The Reggie years were/are definately the best years
    Ahh, the Reggie years... we had a good time then, didn't we, BR? Those were the salad days. Remember when we used to go to the games together? You, me and Shep Proudfoot. That crazy Injun could drink some beer, huh? Good times.
    I remember how Reggie would stop over by our seats and give us all noogies and say "hmph, you kids stay off drugs now mkay?"
    Guess I shoulda listened to him.

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