Tom Benson’s daughter and two of his grandchildren have filed suit seeking control of the Pelicans and the National Football League’s Saints in response to Benson’s announcement today that his wife will control the teams upon his death, reports Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune. The filing in Orleans Parish Civil District Court claims the 87-year-old Benson is unfit to manage his teams and seeks to install Gayle LeBlanc, Benson’s daughter, as the executor of his sports and business affairs, with granddaughter Rita Benson LeBlanc in a secondary position, as Duncan details. Benson LeBlanc was to inherit the teams prior to Benson’s announcement earlier today. Benson grandson Ryan LeBlanc is also one of the petitioners in the suit, Duncan notes.
The suit alleges that Benson’s wife, Gayle Benson, is attempting to take advantage of her husband, and it claims that the owner’s health is in much worse shape than publicly known, according to Duncan. Tom Benson has conceded that his health has declined over the last year after two knee surgeries, as USA Today’s Jim Corbett wrote earlier today.
The Pelicans are the third-least valuable team in the NBA, according to Forbes, which released its annual survey of team values this week. Still, the franchise’s $650MM worth represents a sharp increase over last year, when Forbes pegged it at $420MM.
The Pelicans suit is reminiscent of the battle over the Clippers this past summer. Shelly Sterling successfully wrested control of the Clippers from husband Donald Sterling after claiming that he was no longer fit to manage the franchise and sold the team for $2 billion for former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.