Tom Benson was a highly successful multibillion-dollar business mogul and philanthropist. He was best known for his ownership of 2 pro sports franchises, NFL’s New Orleans Saints and NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans. As the principal owner of the franchise, Benson shared in the historic Super Bowl XLIV victory of the New Orlean Saints in 2010.
Bio – Who Was Tom Benson?
Thomas Milton Benson was born on July 12, 1927, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Thomas Benson, Sr. and Carmen Benson. As a young adult, he served in the United States Military after which he bagged a degree in accounting from Loyola University New Orleans.
Upon graduation in 1948, Benson gained employment as a salesman at Cathey Chevrolet, an automobile dealership company in New Orleans. In 1956, he was transferred to the Chevrolet dealership in San Antonio where he was able to revive the company’s previously poor performance. His hard work earned him massive bonuses over the years and by 1962, he was able to gain complete ownership of the company which eventually became the Tom Benson Chevrolet. He equally owned several other auto dealership companies in San Antonio and the Greater New Orleans regions. With the proceeds from his thriving auto business, Benson invested in several small banks in the area, many of which he ultimately purchased and were collectively known as Benson Financial.
On May 31, 1985, business mogul Tom Benson, purchased the professional football team the New Orleans Saints, which eventually became one of the most notable investments of his career. He quickly employed the services of general manager Jim Finks and head coach Jim Mora both of whom steered the formerly losing franchise to winning ways. Over the years, his popularity as a team owner in the league soared. The climax of Benson’s over 3-decade-long stint as the owner of the New Orleans Saints came in 2010 when the team clinched its first Super Bowl title, the Super Bowl XLIV.
In 1992, Tom Benson made an unsuccessful attempt to purchase the Minor League Baseball team, the Charlotte Knights. He also floated a team in the Arena Football League in 2004, the New Orleans VooDoo, however, he relinquished ownership of the company in 2008. Benson purchased an NBA franchise the New Orleans Hornets (now the New Orleans Pelicans) on April 13, 2012. He also made another addition to his multibillion-dollar fortune in July 2017 when he acquired a majority stake in Dixie Brewing Co. LLC.
Family Life; Wife And Daughter
Until his death, Tom Benson was married for several years to Gayle Benson (née LaJaunie). The couple tied the knot on October 29, 2004, at the St. Louis Cathedral followed by a reception at the New Orleans Museum of Art. After 10 years of marital bliss, they renewed their vows on October 22, 2014, at the same venue.
Tom Benson had been married twice prior to his union with Gayle Benson. His first wife Shirley Landry passed on in 1980 after 26 years of marriage. His marriage to his second wife Grace Marie Trudeau Benson ended in 2003 when the latter died of Parkinsonism.
He had 3 children Robert Carter Benson, Renee Benson and Jeanne Marie “Tootsie” Benson all of whom he adopted with his first wife Shirley Landry. However, Robert died at age 37 in January 1986. Sadly, Benson’s daughter and youngest child Jeanne Marie took her own life in April 1991 at the age of 31.
At the time of his death, Tom Benson had just one surviving child, his daughter Renee who has 2 children Rita and Ryan LeBlanc. Unfortunately, the relationship between the father-daughter duo turned sour a few years before he passed on. The climax of their fractured relationship came in January 2015 when Benson removed Renee’s name and those of her 2 children from his will. He equally supplanted his estranged granddaughter Rita LeBlanc as his successor and ultimately transferred control of his estate to his wife Gayle.
On February 16, 2018, 90-year old Tom Benson who had come down with influenza was admitted to Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson, Louisiana. He passed on nearly one month later at the same facility.
Following his passing, his widow Gayle Benson assumed ownership of his estate. By inheriting 2 professional sports franchises; NFL’s New Orleans Saints and NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, Mrs Benson became the first woman to simultaneously hold principal ownership in an NFL and NBA franchise.