Friday, January 23, 2015

Saints owner Tom Benson cuts ties with children, grandchildren

By Sam Galanis

The New Orleans Saints picked the perfect time to drop the ball.

While DeflateGate was dominating every sports headline this week, Saints and New Orleans Pelicans owner Tom Benson fired his grandaughter, Rita Benson LeBlanc, as owner and vice chairperson. He also cut ties with Benson LeBlanc, his daughter Renee LeBlanc and his grandson Ryan LeBlanc, sending them this letter.

It read:

Dear Renee, Rita and Ryan,

During the over 80 years of my life, I have built a rather large estate which was intended to mainly be for you all as my family.

Suddenly after I remarried you all became offensive and did not act in an appropriate manner and even had arguments among yourselves which created a very unpleasant family situation which I will not stand for. It made me very unhappy and uncomfortable.

This situation cannot continue at my age.

Because of the facts set out above and the heart break you have caused me I want no further contact with any of you and you will not be allowed to enter the Saint's facilities or games, the Basketball facilities or Pelicans games, the Benson Towers, the T.V. facilities or the automotive facilities in New Orleans and will have no right to give directions, orders or hire or fire any of the personnel,

Sincerely yours, your father and grandfather,

The 87-year-old Benson had been grooming Benson LeBlanc as his successor, but their relationship became tumultuous over the years. She was relieved of her duties Tuesday, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, and Benson passed the torch to his wife, Gayle, on Wednesday.

Though La Canfora noted that the two sides of the family have clashed and made up in the past, Benson LeBlanc and Renee and Ryan LeBlanc filed a lawsuit against Benson. The Times-Picayune reported Thursday that the supporters of Benson LeBlanc are claiming that Benson’s wife does not have the business credentials to own football and basketball teams and that Benson’s deteriorating health has rendered him too incompetent to make such decisions.

Rita Benson LeBlanc out as Saints owner/ vice chairman

CBS Sports NFL Insider

Rita Benson LeBlanc, granddaughter of Saintsowner Tom Benson and a member of the team's ownership group, has cleaned out her office with the club and is not actively serving as the Saints Vice Chairman of the Board, according to numerous sources with knowledge of the situation. Benson LeBlanc has had a tumultuous relationship with her grandfather and with many key figures within the team's hierarchy, and was suspended by Tom Benson for three months in 2012.
She is listed among the ownership roster in the team's media guide, after only Tom Benson, and the team's website describes her as “the second-highest ranking executive overseeing management alongside” her grandfather. Benson LeBlanc has led the team's pursuit of hosting Super Bowls and her executive duties include overseeing the Saints sales, marketing and community affairs and she is one of the primary heirs to the team upon Benson's passing. Benson LeBlanc has clashed with coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis at times and her absence from around the team's offices was noticed quickly.
A Saints spokesperson was contacted for comment on this story on Tuesday, and, after requesting additional time to prepare a statement on the matter on several occasions ultimately declined to comment on Wednesday night. It is unknown how long any discipline against her will last -- and several team sources noted that incidents like this have occurred previously with the sides eventually reuniting -- but NFL league officials are aware her absence from her usual Saints duties.
In the past Benson has talked about grooming Benson LeBlanc to take over the day-to-day operations of the Saints, but the succession plan for Benson has grown increasingly murky over the years. Things have come to a head again recently, sources said, and her future with the team could remain cloudy despite the fact her family will eventually assume control of the team. Benson LeBlanc has been one of the more public faces of Saints' ownership in New Orleans.

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