Less than 24 hours after New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson announced he would hand over his empire upon his death to his wife, Gayle, his granddaughter, Rita Benson LeBlanc (original beneficiary), and several other family members have filed a lawsuit to halt the change, claiming the 87-year-old proprietor as ‘incompetent.’
Initially reported by Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com, Rita, Ryan and Renee LeBlanc are named as petitioners in the suit, basically claiming that Benson is too old and unfit to manage the operations of his NFL and NBA franchises.
The suit was filed in Orleans Parish Civil District Court Thursday afternoon. According to the petitioners, Gayle Benson, Tom’s third wife, is manipulating her husband in order to take control of his riches. The catastrophe in the Crescent City comes just one day after Mr. Benson released this statement:
“I have had time to reflect and figure out if we have the ownership succession plan correct after I die, And you know, my wife Gayle is my family too and a very important part of my life. You just know when the time is at hand to start to really think this through and make sure you have everything covered.
“It was documented that my daughter Renee, my grandson Ryan and of course my granddaughter Rita would have a large part of my estate, upon my death, including the two teams and other assets. However, this is a decision about the legacy of things that I have built in my lifetime – my family, including Renee, Rita and Ryan, just as they have been – will be very well taken care of after I die. But to finish my thought, this is based solely on doing what is right.
“I have spent the better part of my life building businesses and as a byproduct of building successful business, I have been fortunate enough in my life to be able to make sizable donations over a long period of time that directly influence my community — the city of New Orleans. It is what I am most proud of in my life.
“And right behind that is the joy I get watching our fans after we win, and secure championships for our city. We have tasted that before and we want to provide that again. For that to continue we need to plan for the future and we need to keep the continuity and stability of what we have built at the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans. My wife Gayle will ensure this. Her love for New Orleans and giving back to the community she loves is unmatched,” Benson continued.
“Gayle will own the teams upon my death and as I noted Rita will not be involved in the ownership or management of the Saints or Pelicans,” Mr. Benson said. “My family, just as they have been for their entire lives, will be well taken care of. The reason for my decision is about laying the foundation for the organization to continue to be successful.”
Saints QB Drew Brees was approached at the Pro Bowl in Arizona Thursday afternoon, expressing his feelings for Benson’s wife. “All I can say is I absolutely love Gayle,” Brees said. “I think she’s one of the sweetest people. I know she’s one of our biggest fans. Her presence at practice with Tom all the time and the way she treats the wives and the players, she’s first class.”
As for the granddaughter, Rita, in 2012, she struggled with her management style, which forced her removal from any football operations. Apparently there was no stability in her office. An unsteady workplace can be poison to such a big organization. As the story continues to unfold, we’ll be sure to keep the Who Dat Nation up to date.