One month after being hospitalized with the flu, Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson died this afternoon. He was 90 years old.
Benson was born and raised in New Orleans, graduating from St. Aloysius High School and Loyola University New Orleans. He served in the Navy during World War II, and made his fortune in banking and automobile sales in Louisiana and Texas.
Benson bought the Saints in 1985, keeping the team from moving to Jacksonville, though he later repeatedly threatened to move the team to San Antonio or elsewhere until the state of Louisiana and city of New Orleans paid big to get him to keep the team in town. The NBA sold the Hornets to Benson in 2012, two years after the league took over from George Shinn, which helped keep the team in Louisiana. He led the effort to rename the team, and they eventually adopted “Pelicans” to bring some local flair.
The joint release put out by the Saints and Pelicans does not say who will take over ownership duties for Benson, a matter of some intrigue since 2015, when the Benson family was involved in a nasty public spat over ownership succession after he cut his daughter and her two children out of ownership plans. That case was settled in Feb. 2017, and terms were never disclosed, so it’s not entirely clear who will control the teams going forward.