Businessman and owner of the New Orleans Saints has passed away. His death comes after he was hospitalized for flu in February 2018.
According to Fox News, Tom Benson passed away on March 15, 2018. He died at a local hospital and has been mourned by many supporters, players, and fans.
Tom Benson was a New Orleans native who owned his hometown Saints for more than three decades. He oversaw their rise from lovable losers to Super Bowl champions.
Benson also owned the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans. He had been hospitalized with the flu on February 16, 2018, according to a statement from the teams.
Benson was a successful auto dealer who bought the Saints in 1985. He bought them when it appeared that they would be sold to out-of-state interests and perhaps moved out of Louisiana.
At the time, he paid $70 million for the team, which is now worth more than $1 billion. Benson's business acumen helped turn the Saints become the 2009 NFL champions.
‘To us, he really was 'Mr. New Orleans' and we have no doubt Tom Benson is dancing in heaven tonight.’
Former President George H.W. Bush, Fox News, March 16, 2018
But his ownership was also marked by the 2012 bounty scandal. In 2005, there had been rumors that Benson did not want to bring the team back to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell described Benson as "a generous and caring philanthropist" and "a true leader among NFL owners." Former President George H.W. Bush mourned him too and released a statement.
The businessman’s death comes at the time of a bitter family split. The split has caused some uncertainty about the future of his clubs.
Benson had made it known in January 2015 that he wanted his third wife, Gayle Benson, to inherit complete control of the Saints and Pelicans. But his disowned daughter, Renee, and her two children, Rita and Ryan LeBlanc, have vowed to prove that Benson was manipulated against them while in a mentally feeble state.
The estranged heirs, who still inherited hundreds of millions of dollars from trusts set up before the family split, sued after they were taken out of the family business. They tried to have Benson declared mentally incompetent to run his own affairs.
They also attempted to have a receiver other than Gayle appointed to oversee Benson’s businesses. The heirs lost that case, but they still could contest the will.
In the meantime, the clubs will be run by Gayle, who married Benson in 2004, and a trusted circle of executives installed by her husband. The executives included Dennis Lauscha, the president of business operations for both clubs.
Mickey Loomis, an executive vice president overseeing football and basketball operations, and the general manager for the Saints was also helping with the clubs.
Benson’s jovial game-day persona turned hardheaded when it came to business matters. In 2001, he negotiated an unprecedented $187 million in concessions and state subsidies to keep his team playing in the Louisiana Superdome through 2010.
That lease was followed by another unusual arrangement in which the state stopped paying direct subsidies to Benson. They committed to relocating numerous state offices in a Katrina-damaged office high-rise next to the Superdome if Benson rehabilitated the building, which is now called Benson Tower.
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