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 trusts.
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 the case.
“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.