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Bensongate: Benson Settles with Disavowed Heirs to Avoid Public Disclosure of Finances

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Tom Benson reaches deal in lawsuit over shares of Saints, Pelicans in final piece of family feud litigation After more than a year of legal wrangling over nonvoting shares in his sports teams and various other business assets, Saints and ...

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Old 06-18-2016, 04:56 AM   #1
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Tom Benson reaches deal in lawsuit over shares of Saints, Pelicans in final piece of family feud litigation


After more than a year of legal wrangling over nonvoting shares in his sports teams and various other business assets, Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson appears to have reached a settlement agreement with the officials overseeing trust funds benefiting his estranged daughter and grandchildren, wrapping up the last unresolved piece of litigation in a feud that has pitted Benson against members of his family for the past 18 months.



The Saints released a statement Friday announcing that Benson and the trust fund officials had struck a deal.

Although the case at the center of Friday’s agreement involved stock in the Saints and Pelicans, Benson was never at risk of losing control of his sports franchises. The controlling stock in the two franchises is in Benson’s sole possession, and he never put any of it in the trust funds involved in the suit.

If the settlement is finalized, Benson will be free to leave complete control of the teams and his other businesses to his wife, Gayle. His announcement a year and a half ago that he intended to do that touched off the legal battle with his other relatives.

Although the latest settlement’s terms will remain confidential, the Saints said both the NFL and the NBA had been informed of the agreement, and Benson’s various businesses would continue to operate “as usual.”

The agreement avoids a trial — scheduled to start Monday — on a lawsuit in which Benson was seeking to recover nonvoting shares in both the Saints and Pelicans as well as other business assets from the trust funds.

There has been protracted disagreement over whether he was offering other assets of equivalent value in return, as he was legally required to do, prompting him to sue the trustees in New Orleans’ federal court in early 2015.

Those trustees — attorneys Robert Rosenthal and Mary Rowe — said in a statement Friday that they were pleased the dispute was close “to an amicable resolution” following the settlement agreement, which still must receive final approval from U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo. The parties are supposed to report to her on July 20.

“As trustees, our objectives all along have been to protect the integrity of the trusts,” Rosenthal and Rowe said.

The case has its roots in a family rift that became public in January 2015, when Benson, now 88, revealed that he wanted to leave control of his billion-dollar business empire to his third wife, Gayle, instead of his daughter and her children, with whom he said he was no longer on speaking terms.

But Benson previously had put nonvoting shares in the Saints and Pelicans, among various other business assets, into a group of trust funds set up for Renee Benson — his daughter from a previous marriage — and her children, Ryan and Rita LeBlanc, a move that was meant to shield them from having to pay estate taxes.

He wanted to reclaim the business assets at the center of the suit to avoid a situation where his estranged relatives — having purportedly clashed with Gayle — would one day end up as minority partners in the Saints and his other businesses, according to court records.

On Friday, Benson’s lead attorney, Phil Wittmann, said the billionaire was “happy” with the settlement agreement and was moving forward with plans to leave control of all his businesses to Gayle.

Benson argued that he had provided the necessary equivalent value to reclaim the assets in the trusts by canceling tens of millions of dollars’ worth of debt and handing over roughly a half-billion dollars’ worth of promissory notes due in about 25 years. The officials overseeing the trusts contested that claim.

Earlier this month, in somewhat of a split ruling, Milazzo denied a request to rule in the trustees’ favor without listening to witness testimony and oral arguments.

At the same time, Milazzo rejected a request from Benson’s attorneys to seal numerous pieces of evidence that could have been used at the trial. Benson contended that allowing his personal and professional financial information to be aired in public could harm his business dealings, along with those of his sports teams and the leagues to which they belong.

The trustees argued that granting such a request would force Milazzo to bar the public from the courtroom for large portions of the trial, violating citizens’ right to access court proceedings.

Had the case gone to trial, many of the witnesses would have been experts offering technical testimony supporting and opposing the argument that Benson was proposing a swap of equivalent value. But it was expected that Benson, as the plaintiff in the case, also would have to testify in open court, something he has not done in other proceedings related to the family feud.

After Benson announced he was changing his succession plans and barring his daughter and grandchildren from any role in his life and his businesses, they challenged his mental fitness to make such decisions. But a New Orleans Civil District Court judge found Benson was mentally competent to handle his own affairs after a closed-door trial in June 2015, and two higher courts have since left that ruling in place.

On another front of the legal battle, Benson and his daughter agreed that she would take over control of a family trust fund established in Texas prior to his purchase of the Saints and Pelicans. That case also was settled shortly before it was due to go to trial this year. Benson probably would have had to testify in that trial as well.

Both sides had incentive to settle the federal lawsuit before a trial. A lengthy, expensive appeals process likely would have followed a decision from Milazzo, no matter which side it favored.


Source: Tom Benson reaches deal in lawsuit over shares of Saints, Pelicans in final piece of family feud litigation | The Advocate — Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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Old 06-18-2016, 04:57 AM   #2
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Re: Bensongate: Benson Settles with Disavowed Heirs to Avoid Public Disclosure of Finances

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Old 06-18-2016, 06:04 AM   #3
 
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Re: Bensongate: Benson Settles with Disavowed Heirs to Avoid Public Disclosure of Finances

Tom Benson settles Saints, Pelicans ownership dispute | NOLA.com
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Old 06-19-2016, 11:51 PM   #4
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Re: Bensongate: Benson Settles with Disavowed Heirs to Avoid Public Disclosure of Finances

Benson family feud needed to end, but questions remain about Saints-Pelicans' future | NOLA.com
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Old 06-20-2016, 12:52 AM   #5
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Re: Bensongate: Benson Settles with Disavowed Heirs to Avoid Public Disclosure of Finances

Money will not make any parties on either side happy.
Just Abide......
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Old 06-20-2016, 09:37 AM   #6
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Re: Bensongate: Benson Settles with Disavowed Heirs to Avoid Public Disclosure of Finances

Originally Posted by RockyMountainSaint View Post
Money will not make any parties on either side happy.
Just Abide......
I don't think it's never been about money, not exclusively at least...

Benson has always been a very vain man and Gayle the Golddigger has played Benson as well as Rasputin could have...

The daughter and grandkids have been thrown aside for GG, and I think they played the only hand that was left to them...

What I don't understand is this BS how Tommy Benson is somehow a victim when he is responsible for creating this mess...

And his way of dealing with these people is consistent with his history of dealing with people and conflict poorly...

“Your best?!? Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home (with) the prom queen.” - Sean Connery in The Rock
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Old 06-20-2016, 11:53 AM   #7
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Re: Bensongate: Benson Settles with Disavowed Heirs to Avoid Public Disclosure of Finances

I don't know all the details. What claim do Renee, Rita and Ryan have on the team?
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Old 06-20-2016, 07:43 PM   #8
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Re: Bensongate: Benson Settles with Disavowed Heirs to Avoid Public Disclosure of Finances

Must be some pretty embarrasing things in those details.

Halo likes this.
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Old 06-20-2016, 08:11 PM   #9
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Re: Bensongate: Benson Settles with Disavowed Heirs to Avoid Public Disclosure of Finances

Originally Posted by jeanpierre View Post
I don't think it's never been about money, not exclusively at least...

Benson has always been a very vain man and Gayle the Golddigger has played Benson as well as Rasputin could have...

The daughter and grandkids have been thrown aside for GG, and I think they played the only hand that was left to them...

What I don't understand is this BS how Tommy Benson is somehow a victim when he is responsible for creating this mess...

And his way of dealing with these people is consistent with his history of dealing with people and conflict poorly...
I understand that this is easy for me to say, as I don't have hundreds of millions of dollars on the line as the Rs do.
But, the job of any parent or in this case, Patriarch of an empire is to provide for your family and set them up for success in their own endeavors.
He's not trying to leave them paupers. He set aside a half a billion dollars in trust for them.
He built the businesses into what they now are.
They belong to him.
Your characterization of GB as a gold digger are based on what?
Perhaps she is willing to follow his succession vision for what he built whereas the Rs are not.
It is his property.
As for your comments about how he handles conflict?
I prefer honesty to having smoke being blown up my ass by an owner.
If his attitude offends you so much?
Don't frequent his business. This includes The Saints.

I'm no one.
Who are you?
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Old 06-20-2016, 08:14 PM   #10
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Re: Bensongate: Benson Settles with Disavowed Heirs to Avoid Public Disclosure of Finances

Originally Posted by Danno View Post
Must be some pretty embarrasing things in those details.

I'm pretty sure the word was passed from other owners and commissioners that certain details of ownership finances are better left out of the public's eye.
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