Saints, Pelicans owner Benson passes away

Saints, Pelicans owner Benson passes away

Until recent years, fans often questioned whether Benson's desire for profit outweighed his loyalty to his native city. Benson, who has also owned the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans since 2012, was 90.

Having married his third wife, Gayle Benson, in 2004, Benson revealed considerable tension in the family when he made a surprising announcement in 2015 that he would be ending a planned succession of his teams and other holdings to his daughter Renee Benson and his two grandchildren through her, Rita and Ryan LeBlanc.

Benson was declared competent in court, but there was more legal wrangling over nonvoting shares of the teams that were held in trusts for the LeBlancs.

A settlement was reached in 2016. The team was named the Hornets at the time, but he rebranded the franchise to give it more of a New Orleans flavor.

Benson has owned the Saints since the 1980s. The team posted their first winning record in 1987 and made the playoffs that year. "In 1985, Mr. Benson purchased the New Orleans Saints after learning that the National Football League franchise was on the verge of being sold to parties interested in relocating the team".

The people of New Orleans rallied that year to sell out the Superdome for the first time, and now there's an annual waiting list of more than 70,000 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (a lucrative naming-rights deal that both Tom and Gayle Benson helped arrange).

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However, with the NFL's urging, the Saints returned home in January 2006, and Benson displayed a renewed commitment to his hometown from that point on.

Regarding military service, Mr. Benson was the only enlisted man to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Pensacola Naval Museum and has been honored with an award from the crew of the submarine U.S.S. Louisiana. Benson has died at age 90, it was announced today. "We send our heartfelt condolences to Gayle, their family, the Pelicans and Saints, and his countless friends".

One of four children, Benson grew up in the hard-scrabble Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

An obituary on the Saints' website said Benson "passed away peacefully at Ochsner Medical Center with his wife Gayle Marie Benson at his side".

He died a month after being hospitalised by flu. "Tom Benson started out as a bookkeeper at a New Orleans Chevy dealership and funneled his earnings into auto dealerships, local banks and sports teams", Forbes Magazine reports.

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