Ownership Transfer Of Saints, Pelicans Expected To Be Seamless
Neither the Saints nor the Pelicans are expected to be "moved or sold" following the death of Owner Tom Benson, as both the NBA and NFL have approved his wife, Gayle, for the ownership transfer and the "power structure beneath her is already in place to assure that both teams will continue operations without a hitch," according to sources cited by Nick Underhill of the New Orleans ADVOCATE. Sources said that the transition to Gayle will be "seamless." She will "now step in" for her husband, and it is expected that things will "operate as usual." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during an appearance on New Orleans-based WWL-AM said, "Mr. B planned out the transition of power. He was careful about that." However, Underhill notes there is "now potential for some legal matters." Tom Benson's daughter and grandchildren, who at one point were "in line to take over the teams but who fell out of favor with him, can contest any will leaving control of the franchises for Gayle." If that happened, it would "likely involve allegations similar to the ones at the center" of a '15 lawsuit by the "jilted relatives that unsuccessfully argued Benson wasn't mentally competent to handle his own affairs." But sources said that they "don't see any scenario where there's an ownership change." Meanwhile, on the "day-to-day front," people such as Saints and Pelicans President Dennis Lauscha and Saints Exec VP & GM and Pelicans Exec VP/Basketball Operations Mickey Loomis have been "entrusted to run the teams." They will "now report to Gayle." The belief is that "nothing operationally will change because that's how Tom Benson planned it" (New Orleans ADVOCATE, 3/16).
CONTENTIOUS SITUATION: Benson in '15 said that in "cutting ties with his would-be heirs, he was instead leaving his teams, auto dealerships, real estate and bank holdings to his third wife, Gayle." In New Orleans, Katherine Sayre notes at the "time of the litigation, the heirs' trust funds held" 95% of the Pelicans and 60% of the Saints. A settlement was "reached last year, but the terms remained confidential, leaving it unclear whether the heirs' stake on the teams changed" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 3/16).