Tom Benson was an American businessman. For most people, his name will be most familiar to them because he was the owner of not one but two sports franchises in the Big Four Leagues. One was the New Orleans Saints in the NFL, while the other was the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA. Here are 10 things that you may or may not have known about Tom Benson:
1. Had Very Strong Roots in New Orleans
Given his ownership of both the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans, it should come as no surprise to learn that Benson had very strong roots in New Orleans. For instance, it was the place where he was born in the late 1920s. Furthermore, it was the place where he went to school as well as the place where he started up his own business.
2. Went to Loyola University New Orleans
Education-wise, Benson went to Loyola University New Orleans. The name of the school is a reference to Saint Ignatius of Loyola, who was one of the co-founders of the Jesuits. Besides this, it is interesting to note that Ignatius of Loyola is also considered to be a patron saint of soldiers, spiritual retreats, as well as a couple of Basque provinces in Spain.
3. Studied Accounting
Subject-wise, Benson studied accounting, which is a very popular subject for people who wind up heading into business. In significant part, this is because accounting encompasses the specialized language used to communicate information about an organization’s finances to interested individuals. As such, even if people aren’t concerned with actual accounting processes, they still need some understanding of the subject if they want to be able to make any sense of a business’s performance.
4. Got His Start in Car Dealerships
Benson got his start in car dealerships. To be exact, he was a Chevrolet salesman in New Orleans. Eventually, Benson headed on over to San Antonio to give a shot at reviving another car dealership that wasn’t doing so well, which resulted in him getting a 25 percent ownership stake in it in exchange for his efforts. In time, this resulted in Benson owning several car dealerships in both Greater New Orleans and Greater San Antonio.
5. Got Involved in Banks
With that said, Benson’s business empire wasn’t limited to car dealerships, as shown by how he managed to make much of his fortune via banks. In short, he invested a lot of the profits from his car dealerships into a number of local banks. After a while, Benson was able to outright combine a number of Southern banks into Benson Financial, which he went on to sell to Norwest Corporation in 1996. With that said, that wasn’t the end of his involvement with banking, seeing as how he went back into it in 2003.
6. Wasn’t That Interested in Football
It is interesting to note that Benson wasn’t that interested in football when he decided to buy the New Orleans Saints. Instead, he bought the team because he had learned from Governor Edwin W. Edwards that the then owner was thinking about selling to buyers who were planning to move it to Jacksonville over in the state of Florida. Benson knew that this would have been an immense blow for his hometown, which is why he decided to do something nice for the place where he started out.
7. His Popularity Has Seen Rises and Falls
With that said, Benson’s popularity in his hometown has seen both rises and falls. In particular, it is worth noting two incidents. One was when he suggested that he might move the team because of failed attempts to convince the state to build a new stadium for them. Another was connected with Hurricane Katrina.
8. Seems to Have Thought About Moving the New Orleans Saints to San Antonio
There were rumors that Benson was thinking about moving the New Orleans Saints to San Antonio even before Hurricane Katrina because of his connections with the region. When the New Orleans Saints started playing in San Antonio after Hurricane Katrina made the Superdome unusable, that further fueled rumors, particularly since there were reports that both Benson and San Antonio authorities were interested in making the move permanent. In the end, Benson remained noncommittal on the matter for four months, with the result that the controversy dragged in everyone from FEMA officials to NFL higher-ups before he finally made the decision to stay in New Orleans.
9. Was Interested in Other Sports Franchises As Well
Besides the NFL, Benson showed a fair amount of interest in other sports franchises in other sports leagues as well. Generally speaking, his purchase of the New Orleans Hornets that became the New Orleans Pelicans is the best-known example of said interest. However, Benson was involved in an earlier effort to turn a minor league baseball team called the Charlotte Knights into a replacement for a previous New Orleans team called the New Orleans Pelicans as well as the establishment of the New Orleans VooDoo in the Arena Football League.
10. Involved in Ugly Legal Battle Towards the End of His Life
Towards the end of his life, Benson was involved in a very ugly legal battle. What happened was that he ousted his daughter plus her two children from the running of his business empire in preference for leaving everything to his third wife. Due to this, his daughter and her two children sued claiming that Benson was no longer competent enough to make such decisions, which is perhaps unsurprising considering the sheer amount of money that was at stake. In the end, neither side of the dispute got everything that they wanted. However, the exact details of the settlement in 2017 were never released in full to interested individuals, meaning much remains unclear even now.