The New Orleans Saints are a team without their leader on the field with quarterback Drew Brees unsigned, and a team without their leader on the sidelines with head coach Sean Payton suspended. And they may also be a team facing leadership questions at the highest levels of their front office.
Saints owner Tom Benson has often praised his 35-year-old granddaughter, Rita Benson LeBlanc, as the right person to lead the franchise for decades to come. But the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports, citing multiple unnamed sources, that LeBlanc is serving some form of unofficial paid administrative leave, imposed by Benson, because the man who has owned the Saints for 27 years is growing concerned with his granddaughter’s approach to business.
The report is short on specifics, saying only that Benson saw “a pattern of behavior that needed to be corrected” from his granddaughter. Among the issues raised are a “lack of focus and abrasive management style,” evidenced by, among other things, going through an estimated 30 assistants in her six years of working full-time with the team. She’s also reportedly “developed a reputation for stalling projects,” and Benson (who made his own money) is concerned that his granddaughter (who was born rich) has developed a sense of entitlement.
Benson, who will turn 85 in July, has said that he’ll eventually turn over control of his team to a family member, and despite these issues, it’s still widely believed that LeBlanc will be that family member. LeBlanc, who has the title of executive vice president, has been the only member of Benson’s family to take a hands-on, day-to-day role in the franchise, and she has been the subject of mostly favorable publicity for her role in helping the Saints and the city rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.
LeBlanc is expected to continue to play a major role with the Saints going forward. But her current leave from the team comes at a time when the franchise seems to have no stability at all, on the field or off.