Have you ever seen two bargain-hungry shoppers at the mall bickering over who gets the last clearance sale item? Well, they have nothing on the mall operators. When Simon Property Group(NYSE: SPG), which owns the Mall of America in Minnesota, first made an unsolicited $17.50-a-share offer to acquire rival Taubman(NYSE: TCO), it seemed fair. Taubman hadn't traded that high in over a decade, and you don't hear too many analysts waxing optimistic about the future of specialty retailing.

That's when the two parties started to dance. Taubman argued that it wasn't for sale. Simon upped the ante to $18. Not good enough? Simon found a venture capital partner and sweetened the bid to $20 in cash. Taubman insisted that it still was not interested. Simon turned to Taubman's shareholders to make sure. Investors could tender their shares by Friday or Simon would take its cash and go play elsewhere.

Over the extended weekend, Simon tabulated the shares and found that 85% of Taubman's shareholders wanted to cash out at $20 a stub. The rub? Taubman owns an additional 32 million shares that carry equal voting weight as the outstanding common stock. Add up the shares and Simon only has 52% of what would be 84 million outstanding shares. Technically speaking, Simon won't be able to get the two-thirds majority it needs to complete the hostile takeover.

But that doesn't mean that Taubman wins here. Can you imagine running a company where 85% of the trading shares belong to investors who wanted Simon's money? While Taubman was quick to beat its own chest by pointing out how it grew funds from operations by 20% last year, shareholders aren't buying it if they aren't selling it. Income investors drawn to mall operators that are set up as real estate investment trusts can find higher yields in Simon and Mills Corp(NYSE: MLS). If Simon walks, every passing day that Taubman fails to close over $20 a share will be a reminder to the Taubman board that it failed its investors. It's not pretty. Then again, unsolicited shopping sprees rarely are.