The transfer of ownership power of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans just got nasty — really nasty. Tom Benson, the 87-year-old philanthropist who owns both franchises — whose health has deteriorated over the past year — has pulled an audible and plans to bequeath control of the franchises to his third wife, Gayle. Not only that, but Benson plans to deny his daughter (Renee Benson) and her two children (Rita Benson-LeBlanc and Ryan Benson-LeBlanc) any and all access to either team. Renee filed a petition to block the succession, claiming her father does not have the mental capacity to make such a decision:
The petition says that Benson’s mental health has also been deteriorating. When he was recently asked who the president of the United States was, he replied “Ronald Reagan” and then guessed “Harry Truman,” according to the petition. It does not say who asked him those questions or who was present when he answered.
Other claims and allegations in the petition that question Benson’s competence include:
— In the summer of 2014, at the urging of Gayle Benson, Tom Benson attempted to purchase the Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots, despite it being illegal for NFL owners to have gambling interests.
— His diet consists primarily of candy, ice cream, sodas and red wine.
— Gayle Benson has removed photographs of Tom Benson’s family members that were once prominently displayed. She also allegedly prevented him from spending Christmas with his “immediate” family by scheduling an event with certain employees and their relatives.
The petition claims that Benson shows brief periods of lucidity, but “that quickly turns into confusion.”
Meanwhile, Tom wrote a letter to his daughter and grandchildren, explaining his reasons for cutting them out of the picture:
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,
Here’s a .pdf of the letter. That’s some cold-blooded stuff right there. And, yet, all I can think of right now is “poor Anthony Davis”.