Published: Fri, March 16, 2018
Sport | By Stuart Potter

Saints, Pelicans owner Benson passes away

Saints, Pelicans owner Benson passes away

With the recent passing of New Orleans Pelicans owner Tom Benson, a lot of questions have already emerged on what direction the team will take.

Tom Benson had been hospitalized with the flu since February 16. With Benson as owner, the Saints made the playoffs 11 times, including the franchise's lone Super Bowl victory in 2010.

Benson later purchased the Pelicans, at the time known as the New Orleans Hornets, in 2012 and rebranded them the next season as the Pelicans. The team has been able to make the playoffs only once over that span, but are looking geared to make the postseason again this season.

"The Saints rewarded their fans with tremendous football and a Super Bowl championship". Benson's popularity with the fan base took a major hit in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when he entertained the possibility of moving the team to San Antonio. Instead, he designated Gayle Benson as that heir, setting off a bitter dispute in which his daughter and grandchildren went to court to contend that Benson had become too mentally unfit to manage his own affairs.

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The Saints began thriving after Benson hired coach Sean Payton that year and the team added quarterback Drew Brees and running back Reggie Bush, among others.

"Tom loved New Orleans, where he was a generous and caring philanthropist", Goodell said. Unhappy with the condition of the Superdome, the Saints appeared to be on the verge of moving before former National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue stepped in and blocked the move. In response, the Saints stated that ownership of that team and the Pelicans was "not in flux but rather in solid standing", adding, "Gayle Benson is the owner". The Pelicans are now seeking their second playoff appearance since Benson purchased the organization. However, they are now thriving as a fifth seed in the Western Conference, led by one of the game's top players, Anthony Davis. They also invested in local companies like Dixie Beer, and TV and film production companies. In November 2014, the stadium at the Pro Football Hall of Fame was renamed Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in recognition of an $10 million donation Benson made toward its refurbishment.

Details regarding public visitation and funeral will be forthcoming.

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