Tom Benson alters plans for Saints after his passing

Getty Images

After a year of multiple health challenges, long-time Saints owner Tom Benson has announced a significant change in his plans for the future control of the NFL and NBA teams he owns.  The Saints have announced that, upon the passing of Mr. Benson, ownership will transfer to his wife, Gayle Benson.

The development represents a dramatic change of plans for Mr. Benson, who had intended to bequeath the teams to his daughter from a prior marriage, Renee LeBlanc, and her children, Rita Benson LeBlanc and Ryan LeBlanc.

“I have had time to reflect and figure out if we have the ownership succession plan correct after I die,” Benson, 87, said in comments released by the team.  “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.”

For years, it had been presumed that Rita Benson LeBlanc would assume ownership of the Saints after Mr. Benson’s death.  That now will not occur.

“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.”

Mr. Benson added that a plan is in place or the Saints to “be set long term here in New Orleans.”  Which is extremely good news for Saints fans.

“My husband is an amazing man and what he has selflessly done and built over his life is truly remarkable,” Mrs. Benson said.  “What I have learned from him is that to build a strong community, you must first be willing to give, to help those in need and support those that are doing good, then and only then can community give back to you.  The most important thing to me is to continue to secure his legacy in the city he loves, New Orleans, forever and we will do that.”

While a surprise on the surface, it’s not a shock that Mr. Benson decided to alter his plan to give the Saints to his granddaughter.  In 2012, Rita Benson LeBlanc was removed from the football business due to concerns about her management style, which caused her to have 30 different assistants in six years.  In 2013, the NFL rejected a “poison pill” in coach Sean Payton’s new contract that allowed him to leave the team if Mickey Loomis no longer served as General Manager, based on the belief that Payton wanted Loomis to remain in place as a buffer between Payton and Rita Benson LeBlanc.

Moving forward, the buffer no longer will be needed, because Rita Benson LeBlanc will not own or operate the team.

“When family members are involved, decision are always tougher,” Mr. Benson said.  “My family, as they have been their whole lives, will be very well taken care of.  However, this is about making the correct decision as it pertains specifically to the future of the Saints and Pelicans and their long-term success in the city of New Orleans, where they belong.”

67 responses to “Tom Benson alters plans for Saints after his passing

  1. I remember reading about Rita Benson being a nightmare, and having a very, very bad sense of entitlement.

    Mr. Benson has obviously given this a lot of thought, and wants to ensure that his legacy is looked after.

    Hopefully his wife will live up to those standards.

  2. To my dear granddaughter Rita, in lieu of ownership of the Saints & Pelicans, I bequeath all of my little custom made umbrellas that I dance with after games……..

  3. Good. I’ve heard nothing but horror stories about her management as is alluded to in this story.

  4. Better news to read than inflated balls, which will be beat down to no end.. How many articles has PFT written already 20 plus…

  5. That is fantastic news!

    “tommyribs says: Jan 21, 2015 8:44 PM
    I remember reading about Rita Benson being a nightmare, and having a very, very bad sense of entitlement.”

    30 assistants in 6 years!!????!! Wow! She makes the Glazers not look as terrible and they fire their entire staff a couple times per year.

    Glad that he cares about the management of the team! Many owners just hand it over to their kids who have no real people skills.

  6. nolajoe says:
    Jan 21, 2015 9:04 PM
    Doesn’t pass the sniff test. Expect a legal challenge.


    On what grounds? He is not dead with what he wanted to happen in dispute. Talking with my lawyer spouse who says Benson is not legally obligated to leave anything to his children or grandchildren. His children are not forced heirs because they are older than the age set for that to apply.

  7. It’s not unusual for the current wife to box out children from a previous marriage. Anna Nicole Smith for instance. Anyway, the daughter sounds like a terrible executive so the team may well be better off without her.

  8. Reporters: “Hey Rita, what do you think about the Saints being taken away from you in the will?”

    Rita: “We’re on to Cincinnati!”

  9. Talk about kicking your kids in the teeth. Kids and grandkids. That sucks. I sense deep family squabbles long after he is gone. He just drove a wedge in the family for a football and basketball team. I question the priorities.

  10. The NFL has had many successful female owner/executives other than Georgia Frontiere. And from the sound of things, Benson’s wife will do a significantly better job than might be expected of his daughter.

  11. Tom Benson is new money. He wasn’t a silver spooner. To him, spoiled, entitled, family is not what he’s used to the way old money families have operated for generations. Newly rich tend to enter philanthropy and are generally repulsed by entitlement in their kids who don’t deserve it.

  12. Where I come from, you don’t choose outsiders over family. She’s a 2nd wife. Her place should be AFTER the kids. How do you place the welfare of a TEAM over the family?! Seriously!?

    And for those who cry she had a sense of entitlement, look no further than Benson himself for responsibility. He raised her and allowed that to happen. Now in the twilight of his life he wants to undo the damage he allowed? Please. She is his Mona Lisa.

  13. Classy. Picking your tenth wife over your flesh and blood who suffered for decades with this unwatchable team. Not surprised. Benson is a slime like most owners.

  14. Jan 21, 2015 10:01 PM
    How much younger is his newer wife? You think she married benson because he’s charming?


    She is 67

  15. Time for Virginia McCaskey to rethink the Bears succession plan too. Like finally selling the team and making her good for nothing sons actually work for a living.

  16. All I want to know is, will his family be well taken care of?

    He failed to mention that…….

  17. Oh, the heartaches and toils of the uber rich. “No apples? Well, let them eat cake then”

    Meanwhile, there are neighborhoods that still haven’t been rebuilt.

  18. xpensivewinos says:
    Jan 21, 2015 11:03 PM
    All I want to know is, will his family be well taken care of?

    He failed to mention that…….

    No, he didn’t fail to mention it. Last paragraph of this article:
    “My family, as they have been their whole lives, will be very well taken care of.”

    For those shaming him for “choosing his wife over his family,” if you read the entire article and click on previous links, you will see that Rita had to be disciplined three years ago with a suspension. Clearly she has not convinced him in the three years since then that she is fit to own the team as he had originally planned. I don’t know what the deal is with his daughter and grandson, but obviously we are not privy to the details of their private family issues. It is sad and true that oftentimes family and business don’t mix, and business can tear a family apart. But jumping to conclusions and assuming Benson is just being a jerk and doesn’t have his priorities straight seems very close-minded. Not all heirs deserve to get everything just because they were lucky to be born into a certain family. I am thankful he is fixing this now rather than leaving the teams in the hands of a dysfunctional family just because that is what he is expected to do.

  19. I thought NFL owners were not allowed to own other American professional sports teams? Hasn’t that been an issue with Stan K in St.Louis and his Denver teams?

  20. I admire him taking the stand that it’s his stuff and he can give it to whomever he damn well pleases.

    Why in the world do family (kids especially) feel they are owed and should be left riches by their parents, Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, etc.?

    That’s THE PROBLEM – a sense of entitlement that what is theirs, is owed to us, to be OURS when they are gone.

    When I pass, I’ll leave my stuff to whoever I want. Family, friends, the homeless guy on the street corner. I earned it and its MY STUFF. I have the right to leave it to my dog if I want to. My kids didn’t earn it, I did.

    Amazes me what a sense of entitlement people think they have just because they are related. GET A JOB – earn your own stuff! SMH

  21. Almost every family out there is adversely affected by an inheritance.

    From “was it split evenly”?


    “But you got this or that before Dad died”.

    It’s always a mess as kids and wives are not treated evenly (lest I say ‘fairly’) in life. Or if they were treated fairly, they do not believe it.

    Kids should stand on their own and any inheritance should be a bonus, not a right or a golden umbrella…

  22. Hopefully Gayle makes pals with Roger. It’d be nice to be in the Friends of Goodell owner program and get slaps on the wrist no matter how many times we screw up, a la the Pats and their upcoming “punishment” as repeat offenders.

  23. I’m all for legacy wealth. The only way I leave my most valuables to my wife is if she is my 1st wife and mother of my kids. Something happens to her, whatever I have goes to these 2 boys. 2nd, 3rd, whatever wife will not come before my sons. Its as simple as that. If they have a sense of entitlement, that is on me, not them. They didn’t ask to come into this world. Their mother and I chose to bring them in. We have an obligation to provide the best we can provide, be it material, spiritual, emotional, psychological, it doesn’t matter.

  24. When you get old and have more money than you can spend in this lifetime, go get you a young spouse. 20 yrs younger is a huge difference. It may be a little different with interests and pop culture because you grew up with VHS and they did strictly DVD. Getting your duck sicked regularly changes the will. Tom is keeping home happy.

  25. Gayle has good business sense and cares about New Orleans. Rita’s first move if she ever got the team would be to try to move it to Los Angeles. She was an awful executive and acted like the team was her private party bus. Plus she didn’t get along with Payton and took to partying a little too hard on Bourbon Street. She thought she was Cameron Diaz from Any Given Sunday, but she was really just the little fat girl in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory…

  26. Teams should be “owned” by their community, like Green Bay.

    The SF team is another example of implosion that has alienated the area.

  27. New Orleans, which is below sea level, and surrounded by levees, is a City on borrowed time.

  28. For those of you above who failed reading, Rita Benson LeBlanc is Tom’s Granddaughter, not his Daughter. She was raised in Texas by her Mother, not Mr. Benson.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.