Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson has passed away at the age of 90. Benson bought the Saints in 1985 after building a car dealership and real estate empire that started in San Antonio, and expanded to his hometown of New Orleans.
When the team went up for sale in 1984, then governor Edwin Edwards says he had one priority: finding a buyer who would keep the team in town, and he found that man in Benson.
“He assured me that if he did buy it, the team would remain in New Orleans, and he kept his word. The team has remained in New Orleans, and it has been a great asset to the city and the state.”
Edwards considered Benson a friend, and the two worked together to make the team a staple of Louisiana culture. The governor says if you worked with Benson, you better be a straight shooter.
“No frivolity, no fooling around, straight down the line, no equivocating, tell it like it is, stick by your promise because that’s what he’s going to do.”
The team had a nearly immediate run of success after Benson’s purchase, grabbing at the time a franchise best 12-4 record just two years into his ownership.
The city, and franchise hit its most precarious patch in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf south. Rumors were abound that the team would end up permanently moving to another city, but Benson kept his word and the Black and Gold committed to staying home. Governor John Bel Edwards says that act helped bring the city back to life.
“When Louisiana and particularly New Orleans was brought to its knees by Hurricane Katrina, Tom Benson stepped up to the plate. He helped us rebuild, he re-instilled confidence and the spirit that is New Orleans and Louisiana.”
Benson leaves the team in good shape, hoping to keep momentum from a highly successful 2017 season rolling right into a 2019 Super Bowl in Atlanta.