Mel Simon, master of malls and sultan of suburbia, dies at 82

Billionaire mall developer and Indiana Pacers owner Mel Simon died on Wednesday at 82. The founder of Simon Property Group (SPG), the largest public real estate company in the U.S., Simon was a major player in the postwar mall boom that both fed and benefited from America's vast expansion into suburbia.

Simon's life encapsulated an era. In the 1950's, when he began his career as a developer, the shopping mall was in its infancy. Open-air shopping plazas had existed since ancient times, but postwar suburban development inspired large retail centers, leading to enclosed shopping behemoths. When Minnesota's 95-acre Southdale Center Mall opened in 1956, it was the country's first fully enclosed climate-controlled shopping center. (Simon later bought that property.)