By Lenore Fedow
Copley Place in Boston is a Simon-owned shopping center. The mall owner terminated its merger agreement with Taubman Centers, which it said was “disproportionately” affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Image courtesy of Simon Property Group’s website)
Indianapolis—Simon Property Group has abandoned plans to buy rival mall owner Taubman Centers, a deal valued at $3.6 billion, the company announced Wednesday.

The terms of the merger agreement allowed Simon to terminate the deal “in the event that a pandemic disproportionately hurt Taubman,” according to a press release.

Simon filed an action in the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Oakland County, Michigan against Taubman, requesting a declaration that Taubman has suffered “a material adverse event” and breached its obligations regarding its business operations.

The complaint states the COVID-19 pandemic has had a “unique” and “disproportionate” effect on Taubman compared with others in the retail real estate industry.

The mall operator has several factors working against it, said Simon—a significant number of enclosed retail properties, and malls located in major metropolitan areas that depend on domestic and international tourists and showcase high-end stores.

Taubman has not yet publicly commented on Simon’s desire to terminate the merger agreement, and did not immediately respond to request for comment from National Jeweler.

Taubman owns, manages or leases 26 shopping centers in the United States and Asia, including the Beverly Center in Los Angeles and The Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey, as well as shopping centers in Xi’an, China and Hanam, South Korea.

Simon’s portfolio includes several upscale shopping venues, including Copley Place in Boston and The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, as well as shopping centers across Europe and Asia.

Looking to Taubman’s business operations, Simon claimed the mall owner failed to protect itself against the impact of the pandemic or take cues from others in the industry, including by not making “essential cuts” to its operating expenses and capital expenditures.

But in Taubman’s recent first-quarter results, the mall owner said it expects to reduce its operating expenses by approximately $10 million for the year. It also deferred between $100 million to $110 million of planned capital expenditures.

Taubman closed all but two of its U.S. shopping centers on March 19, with the other two closing shortly after that.

Simon closed its shopping centers around the same time, but began reopening select locations in May.

Simon Property Group was recently part of another major deal.

Alongside fellow mall owner Brookfield Property Partners and licensing company Authentic Brands Group, the group reached a deal to buy Forever 21 for $81 million after the fast-fashion retailer filed for bankruptcy.

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