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Bren Simon Hires Crisis Communication Firm

The Indianapolis Star, June 27, 2010

Water Cooler Column

Bren Simon has hired a media-jousting white knight adept at easing international tensions as she wages a legal battle for a large share of her late husband's $1 billion-plus estate.

Mark Saylor, a former entertainment editor for the Los Angeles Times, specializes in crisis communications for clients such as the breakaway Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Now, he'll be on the front lines of the Simon family fracas.

Bren, the widow of Indianapolis mall magnate Melvin Simon, is being sued by stepdaughter Deborah Simon over the inheritance plan for Mel's estate. Deborah contends that Bren persuaded Mel, when he was sick and weak, to retool the will and leave less money for Deborah and her two siblings. Bren retorts that Mel didn't trust the kids to be fair to her.

Bren has other matters to deal with, too, like selling her $50 million mansion in Los Angeles' Bel-Air neighborhood.

"Like many prominent people, Bren Simon gets calls from the media," said Saylor, who runs the PR firm Saylor Co. in Pasadena. "She reached out to me to be a first responder."

No doubt, that first-response training was sharpened by handling ancient tensions in Abkhazia.

"The secret of a boutique PR business is to specialize," a Saylor colleague once told the L.A. Times. "There's always going to be a breakaway republic. So it makes sense to specialize in them."

Sounds like Bren found the right PR guy.