Tom Benson and his wife Gayle say first-time luck helped with their draw. (FOX 8 Photo)
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -
An agreement has been reached in the lawsuit between Tom Benson and his trustees, which puts an end to what could have been a messy trial over the future ownership of the Saints and Pelicans.
A settlement was reached last year in the lawsuit between Tom Benson and his trustees, which included giving sole ownership of the Saints and Pelicans to Gayle Benson when Tom Benson passes away. However, that agreement was never signed.
Benson's attorney Phil Wittmann told FOX 8 Friday morning that they were very close to an agreement.
Just before 4 p.m. Friday, Trustees Bobby Rosenthal and Mary Rowe released a statement saying that an agreement had been reached.
The Rita Benson LeBlanc, Ryan LeBlanc and Renee Benson Trusts have agreed to a binding settlement agreement with Tom Benson involving ownership interests in the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans sports teams.
While specific terms of the settlement will remain confidential, according to trustees Bobby Rosenthal and Mary Rowe, the settlement "is a winning proposition for the City and people of New Orleans and fans of the Saints and Pelicans everywhere."
"The New Orleans Saints are among the elite, iconic franchises in professional sports, and the Pelicans are making their mark as a highly competitive and successful franchise in its own right, as well as an important part of the fabric of the City of New Orleans. Keeping these two teams in New Orleans and ensuring their future vitality has always been the highest priority for the family beneficiaries and the trustees. We are optimistic about the future success and prosperity of these two franchises."
"From the beginning of this lengthy legal process, our sole objective has been to ensure that any exchanged assets were of fair and equal value. We believe this settlement does just that, and are pleased with this ultimate outcome."
Bobby Rosenthal and Mary Rowe
A family spokesperson later released a statement from the Benson family.
“This has been a long and difficult time and we are pleased this is behind us,” said New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans Owner Tom Benson. “We have many great projects ahead and look forward to them. In addition, we continue to strive for our number one goal and that is winning championships in football and basketball."
Benson sued to remove shares in the Saints and Pelicans from the trust funds he created for his daughter and grandchildren He later announced plans to leave the teams to his wife Gayle Benson.
Tom Benson's plan was to remove shares in the Saints and Pelicans from the trust funds and replace them with assets of equal value, specifically promissory notes with interest. However, the trustees guarding the funds blocked Benson's move and Benson sued them in return.
A team spokesman says business operations between the Saints, Pelicans, WVUE-FOX 8, automotive dealerships and Benson Tower will remain "business as usual".