New Orleans Saints, Pelicans owner Tom Benson dies at age 90

Getty								Tom Benson and his wife Gayle

The NFL and Louisiana lost a key member of the Louisiana sports community as longtime New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson passed away Thursday afternoon.

Benson's children challenged the ownership of the Saints and certainly now that will be in question, though the franchise insists that Benson's wife, Gayle, will take over ownership of the team.

Benson has owned the Saints since the 1980s.

Benson later purchased the Pelicans, at the time known as the New Orleans Hornets, in 2012 and rebranded them the next season as the Pelicans.

Benson had a complicated relationship with the city over the years, however, and threatened to move the Saints to San Antonio after the team had been displaced there following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Born in 1927, Benson started amassing a personal fortune estimated to be north of $3 billion as a businessman in the auto industry. He purchased a team that had never had a winning season; by the third year of his ownership, the Saints were in the playoffs.

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However, with the NFL's urging, the Saints returned home in January 2006, and Benson displayed a renewed commitment to his hometown from that point on.

The people of New Orleans rallied that year to sell out the Superdome for the first time, and now there's an annual waiting list of more than 70,000 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (a lucrative naming-rights deal that both Tom and Gayle Benson helped arrange). Benson made it known in January 2015 that he wants his third wife, Gayle, to inherit complete control of the Saints and Pelicans, but Benson's disowned daughter, Renee, and her two children, Rita and Ryan LeBlanc - who had always been in line to take over his businesses - have vowed to prove their patriarch was manipulated against them while in a mentally enfeebled state.

Terms of the settlement, which had been in the works since the previous year, were not disclosed.

"Tom Benson's contributions to New Orleans and the National Football League were legendary", NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said.

Benson served on the U.S.S. The team announced that he died peacefully with his wife, Gayle, by his side. I think of his impact on the city of New Orleans. He folded the club after the 2008 season because he did not agree with the arena league's plans to bring in new investors and give them partial control over all teams.

Mr. and Mrs. Benson long have been ardent supporters of University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio.

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