Tom Benson, owner of NFL American football outfit the New Orleans Saints and NBA basketball franchise the New Orleans Pelicans, has rejected reports that he is considering selling the two teams due to his age and an ongoing legal battle with estranged heirs.
Last January, Benson announced plans to hand ownership of the two teams to his third wife upon his death, instead of his daughter and her two children who were previously considered to be first in line to take control.
The declaration led to a dispute within the Benson family, with several lawsuits having been filed. Benson’s estranged heirs filed a civil lawsuit in Louisiana to challenge whether 88-year-old Benson was mentally competent to change his succession plan, arguing that he was being manipulated by his wife and an inner circle of executives.
Despite Benson having so far stood by the decision he made last January, various media reports over the weekend suggested that Benson could sell the two teams in order to conclude the ongoing legal battle.
However, Benson has hit out over the reports, branding a story published in the Times-Picayune newspaper as “scurrilous” and firmly denying that he will sell either team.
“I rarely respond to preposterous media reports as I understand them to be part of our business,” Benson said in a statement. “However, I respond only for the benefit of our fans. They deserve better than to read this scurrilous story, which the editors of the TP decided to blast on the front page.
“What strikes me the most is the pure irony of the Times Picayune imploring me to sell for the benefit of the city. I recall in May, 2012, reaching out to the Newhouse family, imploring them to sell to me or other local ownership as they threatened to become and then became a part-time newspaper. Since then the newspaper has done nothing but layoff (sic) staff and move operations out of town.
“I take great pride in promoting New Orleans as a big league city — securing a record number of Super Bowls, getting naming rights deals for both the Superdome and arena, and infusing millions of tax revenue into our state's general fund. This is on top of the large investments I have made in this city, and I will soon announce more major projects.”
Benson added: “I am not selling either team. That is not in my makeup. I am not retiring or stepping aside, while I do appreciate all of the sincere concern for my health. The legacy of both these teams are still yet to be written and my legacy can be discussed when I am long gone, which by the way is not that important to me right now.
“I have always been and continue to be in complete control of our teams, and that is not in dispute. Furthermore, my plan to transfer complete control to (wife) Gayle (Benson) is unassailable and designed to provide the long term stability and resources that all franchises need to produce consistently winning teams.”