NEW ORLEANS (CN) - The daughter and grandchildren of Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints, have filed for an interdiction to wrest control of more than $1 billion in assets from his third wife.
The interdiction, filed last week in Orleans Parish Court by daughter Renee LeBlanc and her children Rita and Ryan LeBlanc says Tom Benson is infirm. The documents suggest Tom Benson's wife, Gayle, has purposely isolated Benson from his family and associates and is making rash financial decisions in Tom Benson's name.
Renee LeBlanc is the daughter of Tom Benson by his first wife, Shirley, who died of lupus in 1980. Gayle is Benson's third wife, whom Benson married in 2004, months after his second wife, Grace Marie Trudeau Benson, died of Parkinson's disease.
Gayle met Benson while purportedly seeking donations for a charity. According to the interdiction, Gayle, who is almost 20 years younger than Benson and a two-time-divorcee, had disastrous credit and had been sued multiple times both personally and professionally when she and Benson were married.
Under Gayle's charge, the lawsuit says, Benson's longtime family doctor, caregiver and attorney have all been fired and replaced, and Benson is "for some reason, subsisting on candy, ice cream, sodas and red wine."
Benson, who is owner of both the Saints football and Pelicans basketballs teams, also owns several car dealerships. His business and assets are worth over $1 billion, court documents say.
Until recently, Tom Benson and his grandchildren were "a happy family who loved and cared for each other and shared a passion for continuing the accomplishments of their patriarch Tom Benson," the interdiction says.
For many years, the document says, the family patriarch has been transitioning his business to Renee, Ryan and Rita.
But more recently, with the decline of Benson's health and mental capabilities, things have begun to unravel, and in the past several weeks, purported representatives of Tom Benson have attempted to take millions of dollars from Renee, Rita and Ryan's trusts.
The interdiction says Benson's daughter Renee is part owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans through various trusts.
Also, in the aftermath of Katrina, Tom made his granddaughter Rita executive VP of administration of the Saints. She was 29 and still learning, but it was widely acknowledged she would someday be the owner.
In 2012 Tom said publicly: "Rita is being prepared to take over for me, and that's why she's attending all of these things," the lawsuit says.
Rita is also part owner and vice chairman of the board of the New Orleans Pelicans, court documents say.
The interdiction says that in 2009, after marrying Gayle, Benson created irrevocable trusts for Renee, Rita and Ryan and transferred to those trusts substantial portions of family business interests, including majority interests in the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans.
In 2012, Tom Benson again created an irrevocable trust for Renee, Ryan and Rita.
Also in 2012, the court documents say, Tom Benson submitted a notice of intent to the NFL for Renee, Rita and Ryan to be his successors in ownership of the Saints. This was reaffirmed by the Saints in 2014, the lawsuit says.
When Benson married Gayle, she had previously worked in a dental office as a receptionist, then transitioned into a home-sales jewelry business and then tried to find work as an interior designer. "She and her businesses have been sued multiple times," according to the interdiction.