John Breslin Feb. 26, 2016, 11:41am


NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans Saints’ owner Tom Benson is mentally capable of running the football team and the city’s basketball franchise, an appeals court ruled this week.

But the daughter and grandchildren of the billionaire are considering appealing the ruling to the Louisiana Supreme Court, their attorney said in a statement issued to the Louisiana Record.

Daughter Renee Benson and her children, Ryan and Rita LeBlanc, launched legal action to gain control of the Saints and the Pelicans, arguing Benson’s mental capacities were diminished to the point where he is being manipulated by others in his circle.

The Orleans Parish Civil District Court found in Tom Benson’s favor, a decision upheld on Wednesday by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Benson, estimated by Forbes to be worth $2.2 billion, and his family are embroiled in very public disputes over control of various assets, including the sports teams.

These legal disputes began early last year when Benson announced he no longer wanted his daughter and grandchildren to be involved in the running of his businesses and named his third wife, Gayle, as his successor.

In a statement issued after this week’s ruling was handed down, Benson said: "I am hopeful one day soon that all of their ungratefulness will end, and I can continue to enjoy my work with the Saints and Pelicans without further interference.”

Randall A. Smith, the attorney for his daughter and grandchildren, said his clients were disappointed with the ruling.

"The court held that a person whose mental capacity is questioned need not be called to the stand, a ruling which we believe allows for those manipulating someone in a weakened state to conceal the truth,” Smith told the Louisiana Record. “We do appreciate the court acknowledging that there was much conflicting evidence presented at trial, and that the judges who heard this appeal may have reached a different result than the trial judge.”

Smith confirmed his clients are considering appealing to the supreme court, claiming the case involves important legal issues, including the bar on the questioning of Benson.

The family is embroiled in a number of legal actions, one of which was settled last week when Renee Benson and her children gained control of a trust set up in her mother’s name.

"Last week, I signed the documents to settle the Shirley Benson Trust in Texas -- a trust that I established, managed and successfully grew for the benefit of my daughter and grandchildren over many years," Tom Benson said in the statement issued following Wednesday’s court ruling.

He said the settlement had his complete consent and authorization “as the assets in that trust were left to my daughter and grandchildren in my former wife's will.”

“I saw no further need to manage those assets for those who have demonstrated such ingratitude toward me over the course of the last year,” he said.

Benson is taking an action in federal court over another separate trust, which has partial ownership of the Saints and the Pelicans. Benson’s daughter and grandchildren are beneficiaries of that trust, and he wants it removed from having any ownership of the sports teams.

The billionaire said he was grateful to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal for Wednesday’s affirmation that he was capable of running the teams.

“This continues to be a very sad and trying time for me and my wife Gayle," he said. "I am hopeful that the 4th Circuit's Opinion today will end this litigation."

Organizations in this Story

Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans
421 Loyola Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70112

Louisiana Supreme Court
400 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA 70130

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