Saints owner Tom Benson’s mental competency case upheld in appeals court


Tom Benson, New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner, is still declared mentally competent after the initial ruling was upheld in appeals court on Wednesday.

The mess all started last year when Tom Benson made some changes in who will take control of his empire upon his death.  The now 88-year-old’s initial plans were to grant ownership of his NFL and NBA franchises to his granddaughter, Rita Benson LeBlanc.

However, Tom announced that he would hand over command to his current and third wife, Gayle.  As expected, the news did not go over so well with his daughter Renee and her two children, Rita and Ryan, who became petitioners in a lawsuit filed against their elder relative and mentor.

The suit basically stated that Tom Benson is old and incompetent, claiming that the billionaire’s “health and mental capacity have significantly declined” and that he has “fallen under the influence” of his wife.  Following that mess, a Texas judge decided to temporarily freeze Mr. Benson’s assets in the Lone Star State, a place where Tom has a brimming portion of his business.  On that side of things, Renee, Rita, and Ryan were favored.

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However, after an eight-day trial last June and numerous assessments by doctors, Orleans Civil District Judge Kern Reese ruled Tom Benson competent and able to continue to run ownership of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans.  Of course, his family would file an appeal.

But still no luck for Tom Benson’s daughter Renee, and grandchildren Ryan and Rita LeBlanc eight months later on this Wednesday in appeals court.  The ruling was upheld in the state’s 4th Circuit Court of Appeal, per The New Orleans Advocate.

But there’s a lot more to it, things beyond my understanding, and there are other cases still being sort out between Benson and his daughter and grandchildren.

From Ramon Antonio Vargas of The New Orleans Advocate:

"Another case related to the Benson family feud is pending in New Orleans’ federal court. A group of Benson family trust funds that benefit Renee, Rita and Ryan while containing non-controlling shares of the Saints and Pelicans is at the center of that matter.In a separate Benson family feud case, Renee sued in Texas for control of a trust fund that her father had stewarded. A recently approved settlement gave Renee oversight of the trust, created by her mother, the late Shirley Benson, Benson’s first wife.Shares in a family-owned bank, car dealerships and real estate were involved in that case — but not any stock in the Saints or Pelicans."

Still, it doesn’t seem like the children and grandchildren will win the case that means the most.  Tom Benson, according to the court, it still in good condition to run the Saints and Pelicans organizations.  It is uncertain whether or not his family will appeal the denial and ask the court to reconsider.

Tom Benson released a strong statement following the upholding:

“I am grateful that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal has affirmed the ruling that was handed down in the Civil District Court by Judge Kern Reese in this case where my daughter and two grandchildren attempted to have me interdicted. This continues to be a very sad and trying time for me and my wife Gayle. I am hopeful that the 4th Circuit’s Opinion today will end this litigation.

“Last week, I signed the documents to settle the Shirley Benson Trust in Texas – a trust that I established, managed and successfully grew for the benefit of my daughter and grandchildren over many years. That settlement had my complete consent and authorization as the assets in that trust were left to my daughter and grandchildren in my former wife’s Will. I saw no further need to manage those assets for those who have demonstrated such ingratitude toward me over the course of the last year.

“I am hopeful one day soon that all of their ungratefulness will end and I can continue to enjoy my work with the Saints and Pelicans without further interference.”