Lawyer representing Rita, family releases statement on Benson dispute

Published: Jan. 26, 2015 at 4:10 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 26, 2015 at 9:27 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Randy Smith, the attorney representing Rita Benson Leblanc, Renee Benson and Ryan Leblanc released a statement Sunday concerning the dispute between the three and Saints/Orleans Pelicans owner Tom Benson.

Last week, Tom Benson decided that, upon his passing, control over his NFL and NBA franchises will go to his wife Gayle, changing the plan announced last year of giving 60 percent controlling interest to his daughter Renee and 20 percent each to grandchildren Rita and Ryan.

The following is the full statement released by Smith:

In some quarters a narrative has been put forward that suggests that Tom Benson, after much deliberation, made a considered decision to reverse decades of plans to have Rita succeed him as the designated owner of the Saints and replace Rita with his wife Gayle.

Instead, the evidence suggests that Tom Benson, in a weakened mental and physical state, was unduly influenced to suddenly sever all relations with his daughter and grandchildren.

The irrationality of the recent moves is well demonstrated by the bizarre communications and acts executing them.

The coup began with a letter sent purportedly by Tom Benson which severs all relationships with his daughter and grandson, as well as his granddaughter Rita. The letter does not display a reasoned choice to change corporate governance, but a lashing out at those closest to him.

A business decision to replace a long-standing member of a team is not sent on the Saturday after Christmas by email in an oversized font with no letterhead.

A thoughtful personnel change does not ban the discharged employee's mother and brother from public buildings.

A thoughtful personnel change does not cause a daughter and grandson to be abruptly fired from their management of completely different businesses.

A thoughtful personnel change does not result in immediate threats of repossession of vehicles.

A thoughtful personnel change does not yield the reversal of years of estate planning and demands upon a long standing trustee to swap hundreds of millions of dollars of assets for worthless promissory notes.

All of these disturbing acts suggest that Tom Benson has been manipulated.

We are confident that once all of the evidence has been brought to light that it will be clear that this attempted coup is not in the interest of Tom Benson, who is as much of a victim as his daughter and grandchildren, is not in the interest of the fans of the Saints, Pelicans and Voodoo, and is not in the interest of the State of Louisiana or the City of New Orleans.

On behalf of Renee, Rita and Ryan I would like to express appreciation to all those who have expressed their support over the past few days. As Renee, Rita and Ryan work to protect Tom Benson and his legacy, they ask for your prayers and thoughtful consideration. Respectfully, Randy Smith.

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