With the sad news out of Buffalo last week that long time Owner and pioneer Ralph Wilson, Jr. had passed away, along with the recent losses of William Clay Ford and Bud Adams, fans of all NFL franchises may wonder what would lie ahead should the owner of their beloved team suddenly pass. For fans of the New Orleans Saints, it appears that the organization already has a plan in place, should anything happen to Owner Tom Benson.
Benson, the former Navy sailor who purchased the franchise in 1985 following plenty of success in automobile sales and investments, has become a key figure in the league. Though at times a polarizing figure to Saints fans, the soon-to-be 87 year old is a New Orleanian through and through, and appears to have set up a structure in which his daughter and two grandchildren would assume control of the Saints as well as the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans, which Benson purchased in April 2012, when they were still known as the Hornets. Benson's granddaughter Rita Benson-LeBlanc, who serves as owner/vice chairman of the board for both the Saints and Pelicans, would likely take on a more prominent every day role.
Saints owner Tom Benson
Benson's wife Gayle, who has played an important behind-the-scenes role for both organizations in recent years, would also likely be involved. The involvement of these family members would fit the NFL's preference to keep control of the organization within the late owner's family. General Manager Mickey Loomis and team president Dennis Lauscha would continue to play an important part as decision-makers.
The goal of this plan would be to continue to operate under normal circumstances as to avoid any major shake-ups to the day-to-day operations within the two organizations, which would highlight the importance of the roles played by Benson-LeBlanc and Loomis, two of the elder Benson's most trusted associates. Benson remains a big part of every day activities around the two clubs. The Saints are in the midst of their most successful run in team history, while the Pelicans have assembled a roster of young talent that seems to be on the verge of becoming a playoff contender.
As for the Saints exclusively, there have been some high highs and some low lows under Tom Benson's watch. Many a losing season, failed coaching hires, draft pick busts, Hurricane Katrina and the fallout that ensued from that natural disaster with rumors of Benson re-locating the team to his home away from home, San Antonio. Then, the successful hires, the unsung players that emerged as stars, the Dome Patrol, the return to New Orleans, multiple division titles and, of course, the Lombardi Trophy.
Benson has had some health scares over the years, but appears in good of shape as you could expect an 86 year old business man to be. The team's recent success would not be possible without their dilligent owner, and his family will be poised and ready to step into the threshold when the time comes. His impact in the city he loves has exceeded the Football field, as his philanthropic work around New Orleans has come to light and helped the city continue to prosper post-Katrina. The once polarizing owner has seemingly warmed to most, if not all Saints fans in recent seasons, and those same fans would love nothing more than to see additional Benson Boogies on the field after big victories as the team hopes to continue it's run of success into the future.