Gayle Benson has taken over leadership of the New Orleans Saints franchise since the passing of her husband, Tom, in 2018. Her inheritance upon Tom Benson’s death included full ownership of both the NFL’s Saints and the NBA’s Pelicans as well as the Dixie Brewing Company.
Benson purchased the New Orleans Saints in 1985. He was known for keeping the franchise in the historic city even after the destruction from Hurricane Katrina. Court records showed that his widow Gayle was the sole beneficiary of the estate.
Tom Benson’s daughter and her children were excluded from any future role in running his empire. However, Benson’s children weren’t left with nothing after the patriarch’s death. What assets did Tom Benson’s children receive instead of the sporting franchises?
Tom Benson’s falling out with his children
Prior to Benson’s 2018 death, he had severe legal battles with his daughter Renee Benson, granddaughter Rita LeBlanc and grandson Ryan LeBlanc. Sports Illustrated reported in 2016 that Benson claimed to have witnessed a 2014 confrontation between his wife Gayle and daughter Renee that turned physically violent.
In January 2015, Benson fired his daughter and grandchildren from their executive positions with the teams he owned and announced that Gayle would be the sole heir. The attorney for Renee Benson and for Ryan and Rita LeBlanc denied all of the allegations made by Benson.
Tom Benson's settlement with his daughter and grandchildren
The drawn-out legal battle for Benson’s assets ended with his daughter and grandchildren in control of three car dealerships (Mercedes-Benz, Chevrolet, and Honda), bank branches, and a hunting ranch, all in the area of San Antonio, according to Nola.com.
The other assets Benson’s relatives came away with while he was still alive included a private plane, a Lake Tahoe home, and a two-story Old Metairie home with an assessed value of $1.3 million.
Renee Benson and her children also brought a lawsuit claiming her father was mentally unfit—a charge that was dismissed by a New Orleans judge.
Benson sought to reclaim non-voting stock shares held in trust for his child and grandchildren, but he needed to replace those shares with assets of equivalent value. Exactly how he reworked the trust isn't public knowledge.
Gayle Benson’s net worth
As the owner of the Saints and Pelicans and several other valuable properties and businesses, Gayle has an estimated net worth today of $3.4 billion. She was ranked #8 in the list of wealthiest professional sports owners, #891 on the Forbes list of global billionaires, and #297 in terms of the richest people in the U.S.
Gayle Benson's hurricane donation
On Aug. 30, Gayle announced that she would donate $1 million to the Gulf Coast Renewal Fund. The donation is intended to help with rebuilding of infrastructure, with plans to consult with community leaders on how best to allocate resources following Hurricane Ida.
Gayle Benson was much younger than her husband and had no children of her own. She had married Benson in 2004.