Simon Property Group came into 2021 as the largest mall operator in the U.S. with ownership or ownership stakes in more than 200 shopping complexes. The publicly traded company — SPG on the New York Stock Exchange — reported $2.3 billion in operating cash flow in the fourth quarter of 2020, and also said it was able to raise $13 billion in debt and equity markets.
The sums were impressive enough given the battering that Simon, like other mall operators, took during the coronavirus pandemic. The company reported revenue losses for 2020 in excess of $1 billion, as it said it lost more than 13,500 shopping days cumulatively due to COVID-related stay-at-home advisories.
Simon did try to weather the adversity through innovative deals and distressed acquisitions. The company, for one thing, acquired control of bankrupt retailers such as JCPenney and Brooks Brothers. This was in part to ensure those retailers kept filling space in Simon malls. Simon also was able to negotiate down by about $800 million its purchase price of rival Taubman Centers.
Overall, even coming out of a pandemic that walloped brick-and-mortar retail in particular, Simon has been able to maintain its spot atop the mall chain in the U.S. That march began in the 1960s with a partnership between brothers Herbert and Melvin Simon. They took their collection of shopping centers public in the early 1990s.
Melvin’s son, David E. Simon, was Simon Property Group’s chief executive and chairman as of early 2021. He is as such the public face of the company, which has at times diversified into investments through real estate investment trusts and into experiential shopping development. Mostly, though, Simon continues to be about renting retail space in malls to brand-name stores.