Thursday January 22nd, 2015

Tom Benson's wife, Gayle, will succeed him as owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans once he dies, he announced on Thursday.

Benson's previous plan called for his granddaughter, Rita Benson LeBlanc, to assume ownership of the Saints. He now said that LeBlanc, who was vice chairman of the board for both teams, will not be involved in the future of either team, Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune reports. He said LeBlanc and the rest of his family will continue to be taken care of after his death.

The 87-year-old Benson had a pair of knee surgeries in the past year and now uses a wheelchair and walker to assist his mobility. Benson said he is healthy and that his wife, a New Orleans native, is the perfect successor.

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“While I have slowed down a bit due to this bad knee, I am still very actively involved in every aspect of my businesses and take part daily in decisions that affect all of my businesses,” Benson said. “I enjoy it, I truly do. I love being in the office and being around the coaches and players and staff and being a part of what they are doing. I have just come to a point in my life where I need to make some tough decisions on how things are going to be planned out. My wife, Gayle, is very important to me, she is born in New Orleans. She has been a business woman in this city for many years and is actively involved in many charitable organizations, the Catholic Church, hospitals, schools and university boards, to name a few…I am very proud of her. She is the most logical and natural person closest to me that will ensure the continuity, the stability and the success of our Saints and Pelicans in the city of New Orleans for a long time."

Gayle Benson said she is committed to the teams and that she wants to maintain her husband's legacy.

Benson bought the Saints in 1985, and the team won the Super Bowl after the 2009 season. He bought the Pelicans in 2012.

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