Every family has its fair share of problems, but the Bensons of New Orleans are embroiled in a rather specific type of family drama that apparently has extreme hostile undertones. Tom Benson is the owner of the New Orleans Pelicans and the New Orleans Saints, yet due to his deteriorating health and elder age, both franchises are being thrust into a nasty legal battle with his daughter and grandchildren.
In 2015, Benson announced that he was transferring future ownership of the Saints and Pelicans to his wife, Gayle. This outraged his daughter, Renee LeBlanc, and her children, Ryan LeBlanc and Rita Benson LeBlanc, who were previously in line for future ownership of both franchises. A court battle ensued, where according to a deposition from Benson, he claimed that he transferred future ownership to his wife because his daughter and grandchildren were trying to kill him.
From Sports Business Daily:
Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson testified during a deposition two months ago that his estranged daughter and grandchildren “tried to kill me.” Excerpts of the 88-year-old’s March 28 and March 29 depositions were made public today in Louisiana federal court filings. Asked why he has moved to take future ownership of his two teams away from them, he replied, “They tried to kill me for one thing.” Asked what he meant by this, he said, “You know by picking on my wife and when I wasn’t feeling very good they were very hostile.”
Benson recounts a previously reported incident at a December ’14 Saints game in which his wife, Gayle, was allegedly physically attacked by his heirs. However, in Benson’s retelling it is his daughter, Renee, and not his granddaughter Rita LeBlanc, who attacked his wife in the suite that day. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported in February ’15 it was Rita who had “shook” Gayle in a violent encounter. Benson in his testimony said, “They start picking on Gayle. And it got so bad, Renee shook her, and I said, ‘That’s enough. Let’s go.’ Gayle and I left the game.”
During a deposition a day earlier, Benson added according to portions of the transcript filed, “They attacked me, you got to know. That’s why I don’t want to leave them anything. Okay?” He also testified he felt they were scheming to take ownership of the teams away from him.
The hostility toward Benson and his wife from his daughter and grandchildren points to a rather tenuous ownership situation in New Orleans, but Gayle Benson is still in place to take over for the 88-year-old Tom Benson when he passes away.
Tom Benson was seen as a savior of the NBA in New Orleans when he purchased the then-Hornets in 2012, yet now it seems like that franchise, along with the Saints, could be mired in a rather dark legal drama for the foreseeable future.