Benson attorneys fight to keep federal succession case in New Orleans

Benson attorneys fight to keep federal succession case in New Orleans

Tom Benson's fight to transfer assets from his daughter and grand children to his wife moved back to federal court in New Orleans, but it's not clear if that fight will remain here or be moved to Texas.

While a civil court judge considers whether Tom Benson is competent to manage his businesses, his attorneys went to federal court to fight for Benson's effort to turn over future control of his empire to his third wife, Gayle.

Benson attorney Phil Wittman said the case belongs in New Orleans.

"Because the obligations of the trust agreement arise here with respect to Louisiana assets, and Mr. Benson is a Louisiana citizen."

But Robert Rosenthal, the trustee for Benson's empire, has balked at the Benson asset shift, saying he has to assess whether the Benson heirs -Renee Rita and Ryan - are being given adequate value for future ownership of the teams. And Benson is trying to force the issue in New Orleans federal court.

When asked if Rosenthal had done anything to establish jurisdiction in Louisiana, Rosenthal's attorney Kyle Schonekas said, "We believe strongly that he has not."

It's a legal quagmire that had Benson scratching his head as his civil trial wrapped up last week, when he said to have your kids turn against you is "for the birds."

In arguing to keep his case in Louisiana, Benson attorney Wittman said Rosenthal has control of virtually more property than anyone else in the state.

"Let's start with Benson Tower, leasehold interest in the Superdome and Smoothie King center. An awful lot of real estate in these trusts," Wittman said.

Rosenthal's attorney says those assets are held by companies based outside of Louisiana.

"He is a trustee in Texas for a Texas trust that was set up by a Texas domiciliary, Mr. Benson, on behalf of three Texas beneficiaries, and it belongs in Texas," Schonekas said.

Judge Milazzo did not immediately decide whether the case would be heard here. And until she does, the irrevocable trust granting future Benson assets to the heirs will stand.

Benson's attorneys are also fighting a similar issue in a Texas state court, involving control of a family trust fund there. That court removed Benson from control and assigned temporary managers. Benson's attorneys are asking the San Antonio court to reconsider that issue.

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