The Benson Family Feud features hard feelings and strong opinions and high stakes and plenty of lawyers, sparked by Saints owner Tom Benson’s decision to re-write his will in a way that altered the succession plan for his NFL and NBA franchises. A new report indicates that the change from Benson’s daughter and her two children to Benson’s current wife was sparked by a December confrontation between Rita Benson LeBlanc (right in the photo) and Gayle Benson (left).
According to Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times Picayune, LeBlanc (Mr. Benson’s granddaughter, who previously was pegged to run the Saints after his passing) and Gayle Benson (Mr. Benson’s third wife) had a disagreement in the presence of others in a suite at the Superdome before the Week 16 game against the Falcons. Duncan reports that LeBlanc was the aggressor, and that she eventually “grabbed Gayle Benson by both shoulders and shook the then-67-year-old repeatedly during a confrontation that lasted several minutes.”
“[Rita] was shaking [Gayle] to emphasize her point and to be heard,” a source who witnessed the incident told Duncan. “It was pretty ugly.”
Duncan reports that, six days after the encounter, Mr. Benson “mailed a letter to [daughter] Renee Benson, Rita Benson LeBlanc and [grandson] Ryan LeBlanc telling them he never wanted to see them again and banning them from his business operations.”
In January, Mr. Benson finalized the change to his will that shifts ownership of the Saints and the NBA’s Pelicans to Gayle Benson after his passing. That move prompted a lawsuit from Renee Benson, Rita Benson LeBlanc, and Ryan LeBlanc challenging his mental capacity to alter his plans for the future control of the teams.
While the incident between LeBlanc and Benson has no direct relevance to the question of whether Mr. Benson had the appropriate mental capacity to alter his will, it helps explain why he made the decision — and it likely will prompt plenty of fans in New Orleans who haven’t chosen a side in the Benson Family Feud to side with Gayle Benson.