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NEW YORK — The worlds of retail and real estate converged at the Grand Hyatt last Wednesday to honor David E. Simon, chief executive officer of the Simon Property Group, the largest U.S. real estate company.

Simon received the American Jewish Committee’s Centennial Leadership Award before a crowd of 900 people. The event raised more than $3.5 million to support AJC’s 100-year fight against bigotry and for its humanitarian relief efforts.

“My father and uncle founded the business I am privileged to lead today,” Simon said. “They worked hard and with integrity. Like my father, I have chutzpah and belief in the future, and sometimes that means sticking your chin out. Believing in the future means bringing everyone together, like tonight.”

Michael Gould, Bloomingdale’s chairman and ceo, was instrumental in getting Simon to accept the honor. “It was a long courtship,” Gould said. “He was always worried that no one would come. Your nervousness should be alleviated.”

Among those who attended were: Coach’s Lew Frankfort, Christian Dior’s Marla Sabo, Kimco’s Milton Cooper, Louis Fortunoff of Fortunoff’s, New York & Co.’s Richard Crystal and Martin + Osas’ Ken Pilot.

“He’s a true leader, a friend, a mensch and a mere toddler at the age of 44,” said Steven Roth, chairman of Vornado Realty.

With admiration and some ribbing, Roth cited Simon’s reputation for wearing rumpled suits, as well as the $21 billion in strategic acquisitions Simon Properties has made since Simon became ceo in 1995. Simon now has 285 “best in class” properties, Roth said.

“It’s no accident Simon is the biggest. It’s something he reminds us about every day.”

This story first appeared in the March 21, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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