Tom Benson answers questions about future of Saints, Pelicans

Tom Benson answers questions about future of Saints, Pelicans


Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson laid out a new succession plan Wednesday that effectively ousts his granddaughter, Rita Benson Leblanc.

On Thursday morning, Benson answered a series of questions on the future of the Saints and Pelicans, releasing a this letter to the public:

Why now?

As I noted, with my knee and the few surgeries I have had on it during the past year, it has given me time to reflect on a number of issues that we will face in the distant future, not only with the Saints and Pelicans but also my other businesses like the banks, real estate, the ranch, the Benson Tower, WVUE-TV Fox 8 and of course my automobile dealerships here in New Orleans and San Antonio. This is a decision that I have decided was in the best interest for the long-term stability and success of our football and basketball teams. That is a lot to think about. And there are a lot of people and families impacted by decisions that need to be made and so I thought now was the right time. This is not something that came about overnight, but over time.

How or why did you decide on the change in ownership structure of the two teams from your family (i.e. Renee LeBlanc, Rita Benson LeBlanc and Ryan LeBlanc)?

As I noted, I have had time to reflect and figure out if we have the ownership succession plan correct after I die. 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 sizeable 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.

Rita has been positioned for a long-time to be the eventual owner of the teams and represent them at league and owners' meetings. What will be her role?

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. 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.

What happens to the teams when Gayle Benson dies?

Well, since I do not plan on dying anytime soon, and I think Gayle will be around a long time. I am not sure how urgent that question is…but there is a plan, without going into great details, for the team to be set long term here in New Orleans.

Quotes From Gayle Benson, Dennis Lauscha, Mickey Loomis and Archbishop Gregory Aymond

"My husband is an amazing man and what he has selflessly done and built over his life is truly remarkable. 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." - GAYLE BENSON

"We have built a strong foundation of success with the Saints and Pelicans on both the business side and the respective football and basketball operations. This will continue. Mr. Benson remains actively involved in the day to day operations of all of his businesses, addressing both the short and long term plans for the teams are always top of mind items and he decided now was the time to make this change. As President, employee, fan or stockholder of the Organization, you simply want committed and dedicated ownership who provide the resources, support and guidance to be a champion on and off the field. Mr. Benson provides these assets and this change will continue to strengthen his support. " - DENNIS LAUSCHA, President New Orleans Saints, New Orleans Pelicans

"Our football and basketball operations could not ask for a better owner in Mr. Benson. We have nothing but his unequivocal support and that is important. We have been a successful franchise because of it. Nothing will change with that when Mrs. Benson becomes the owner. That stability creates an environment so that players and coaches want to come here." - MICKEY LOOMIS, Executive Vice President/General Manager New Orleans Saints; Executive Vice President/Basketball Operations New Orleans Pelicans

"I am glad to be both friend and spiritual advisor to Tom Benson. Through that relationship, I can assure you he is a man who daily strives to live out the values of Jesus in his daily life. He is consistent in his decisions, both personal and business, that they are rooted in faith and integrity." - ARCHBISHOP GREGORY AYMOND, Archdiocese of New Orleans