The mall was once the heart of suburban American life: families shopped, teenagers hung out and Hollywood set films there. But its attractions have faded and the coronavirus has made things even worse.

The mall’s malaise prompted two events this week. Simon Property Group, the biggest US mall operator, was cleared with Brookfield Asset Management to buy the department store chain JCPenney out of bankruptcy for $1.75bn. Meanwhile, investors blocked a capital-raising plan at the European group Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, which runs 89 malls in Europe and the US...

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