NEW ORLEANS – The attorney representing one of two trustees
named in a lawsuit filed by New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans owner
Tom Benson said the parties are working hard to iron out their differences with
a February trial date looming.
“The parties are devoting enormous time and energy trying to
resolve a very complex dispute,” Thomas M. Flanagan of Flanagan Partners LLP,
who is representing trustee Mary Rowe, told the Louisiana Record.
U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo scheduled the trial
to begin Feb. 6. Benson filed the suit against the administrators of trust
funds that were established to benefit his daughter and her two children.
The case was put on hold in June to allow for
settlement negotiations. In connection with her order setting the trial date, Milazzo
also denied a request from Benson’s attorneys and the trustees for a second
extension that would have set the deadline for reaching a settlement at Oct. 3.
If a settlement is not reached, Flanagan said the defendants
will be ready for trial.
“Though a settlement crafted by the parties is often the
preferred outcome, we will be fully prepared for motion practice and trial
should that prove necessary,” Flanagan said.
As part of the Aug. 30 order scheduling the trial for Feb.
6, the judge gave the attorneys working on the case until Oct. 28 to depose National
Football League and National Basketball Association officials in connection
with the lawsuit.
Benson’s lawsuit was filed in an effort to recover the nonvoting
shares in his NFL and NBA teams and other business-related assets that Benson
put in trust for his daughter and her two children.
However, after the trust was established, the relationship
between Benson and those relatives soured. He has since decided that he no
longer wants the relatives in question to be involved in his businesses.
The lawsuit arose from a dispute between the parties
regarding whether Benson provided other assets of equal value before he filed
the lawsuit against the trust administrators. Benson is legally required to provide
the other assets in order to reclaim the interests in the teams from the
The defendants had originally asked the court to dismiss the
case before an announcement came just days before the first scheduled trial
date. In addition, Benson’s daughter and grandchildren lost their battle to
have him declared mentally incapable of handling his own business affairs.
Flanagan said the defendants are grateful that, by setting a
new trial date, the judge has left options open in regards to resolution of
“We appreciate that the judge has given us an opportunity
for a definitive resolution of the matter should our settlement efforts not
bear fruit,” Flanagan said.
Benson reportedly plans to leave his billion-dollar business
estate to his current wife, Gayle Benson, who is his third wife.
In addition to attorney Rowe, the trusts established for
Benson’s daughter, Renee Benson, and grandchildren Ryan and Rita LeBlanc are
overseen by attorney Robert Rosenthal.