Gayle Benson has taken over ownership of both the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans after Tom Benson, her husband, passed in 2018. Tom, who purchased the Saints prior to the 1985 season, passed away in March of 2018. Gayle has fulfilled her late-husbands duties as owner of both Louisiana-based franchises.
Here are five key facts for both Gayle and Tom Benson.
From Car Dealer to Banker
Tom Benson began his ascension up the financial ladder by owning and operating Chevrolet dealerships. He started as a salesman in New Orleans, but his big break came when he moved to San Antonio, Texas to revive a struggling dealership. By 1962, Benson owned his first dealership. He quickly spread his car-dealing empire to both the New Orleans and San Antonio areas.
After finding success owning dealerships, Benson began to invest his profits into local banks across Louisiana. By carefully building his portfolio over the next two decades, Benson Financial was sold to Norwest Corporation in 1996.
Bringing the Saints Back to New Orleans
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Saints split their home schedule between two locations outside of New Orleans. Four games were played in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the other four were played at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Controversy crept in regarding Benson’s intentions towards bringing the Saints back to the ravaged Superdome.
Eventually, Benson decided to bring the Saints back to New Orleans in opposition to attractive re-location bids from then Texas Governor, Rick Perry. The Saints returned to the Superdome in September of 2006, where they secured an emotional victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
Gayle’s Place Among Female Owners
Gayle Benson is now on a short list of NFL owners that are female. Alongside Amy Adams Strunk, Virginia Halas McCaskey, and Martha Ford, Benson is the newest member of a quartet of female majority owners.
In a statement chronicled by The New Orleans Advocate’s Nick Underhill, Benson revealed that she intends to own both the Pelicans and Saints for an extended period of time.
“I will own and operate this franchise until my death and do so with the same drive and focus towards success that my husband displayed through his life,” she wrote.
Controversy With Heirs
In 2015, Tom Benson made waves by omitting his daughter and grandchildren from the Saints and Pelicans’ ownership plans. Instead, Gayle was left to operate as majority owner of both teams. After a prolonged battle in court, Gayle emerged victoriously in her claim to ownership of both teams.
Other Business Ventures
Along with overseeing two major sports franchises, Gayle also operates as an owner of Dixie Brewing Company. The regional brewery based in New Orleans was founded in 1907. The company never fully recovered from the damage of Hurricane Katrina but has found new life after the Benson’s purchased the company in 2017.