Benson settles lawsuit pitting him against overseers of trusts benefiting estranged relatives

By Rebecca Campbell | Mar 19, 2017

New Orleans – New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson has finalized an agreement settling a lawsuit he filed nearly two years ago against officials overseeing a group of trust funds benefiting his estranged relatives.

Benson’s suit against trustees Robert Rosenthal and Mary Rowe is the last pending legal case related to a family feud that became public in January 2015.

According to the case file, on April 28, 2009, Benson established for the benefit of his daughter, Renee Benson, and his grandchildren, Rita Benson LeBlanc and Ryan LeBlanc, the following trusts: the Renee Benson 2009 Irrevocable Trust, the Rita Benson LeBlanc 2009 Irrevocable Trust, and the Ryan LeBlanc 2009 Irrevocable Trust. The file adds that Benson’s daughter or grandchildren did not paid into the trusts.

The settlement resolved a dispute that largely centered around valuable, but non-voting shares in New Orleans’ NFL and NBA franchises, which were among the business assets that Benson was seeking to remove from the trust funds he had established for his daughter and grandchildren.

In a report from The New Orleans Advocate, a key question in the lawsuit against Rosenthal and Rowe was whether Benson had offered assets of equal value – which is required by law – in exchange for the business assets he wanted to take out of the trust funds set up for his relatives.

It adds that Rosenthal and Rowe had argued repeatedly that Benson had not provided the mandated equivalent value for those assets.

Interestingly, in an earlier report from The Advocate, before the finalization of the settlement, it was reported that if a trial was scheduled to move forward the NFL and the NBA wanted certain pieces of ‘commercially sensitive’ evidence shielded from public view.

It’s believed that the evidence in question could shine a light on how much money NFL and NBA teams, which are considered the riches organizations in the world, are earning. While court records reveal that the NFL recommended that its other club owners permit Benson to borrow as much as 50 percent above the league’s $250 million team debt limit to help with a settlement.

Renee, Rita and Ryan were fired as executives in Benson’s business empire when he removed them from his life. At the time he cut them out of his life, it is alleged that Benson changed his will to leave control of his billion-dollar business empire to his wife, Gayle.

In 2015, his estranged family members brought a failed suit challenging Benson’s mental competency. Using similar arguments in the latest case, The Advocate adds, Renee, Rita and Ryan could contest any will drawn up by Benson, now 89, after he dies.

However, after two years, the case has finally been settled.

“This has been a long and difficult time and we are pleased this is behind us,” said Benson in a family statement. “We have many great projects ahead and look forward to them. In addition, we continue to strive for our number one goal and this is winning championships in football and basketball.”

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