Judges orders Tom Benson’s daughter trustee of an estate

SAN ANTONIO – A Texas judge on Friday ordered the replacement of Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, by his estranged daughter as trustee of a Benson family estate trust worth almost $1 billion.

Bexar County Probate Judge Tom Rickhoff ruled that Benson’s estranged daughter, Renee Benson, control the 1980 Shirley Benson Testamentary Trust, the San Antonio Express-News ( ) reported. The trust was created in 1980 upon the death of Shirley Benson to oversee the assets of Tom Benson’s late first wife and Renee Benson’s mother.

Renee Benson and her two children sued her father in January 2015, challenging the 88-year-old San Antonio businessman’s competency to take control of the estate away from her. She argued he was being manipulated by his present wife Gayle Benson.

The trust assets include Lone Star Capital Bank in San Antonio, about half interest in Tom Benson’s five auto dealerships, a stake in the large Benson ranch near Johnson City, a multimillion-dollar Lake Tahoe home, a private plane, cash and other real estate. Tom Benson has asked the judge to protect employees of the auto dealerships bound up in the trust pending “reorganization.”

Although Phil Hardberger, former San Antonio mayor and court-appointed receiver of the trust until last week, had estimated its value as nearly $1 billion. However, Renee Benson contends the value is about $200 million.

The decision does not affect Tom Benson’s ownership of the NFL Saints and NBA Pelicans, which is bound up in another trust that is at the centre of a similar court fight in Louisiana.

Last June, a Louisiana judge ruled that Benson remained competent to run his nearly $2 billion business empire as he saw fit, upholding Benson’s decision to oust his daughter and her two children from ownership positions with the sports franchises.

District Judge Kern Reese in New Orleans dismissed a lawsuit by Benson’s estranged daughter, Renee, and her two children, Rita and Ryan LeBlanc. They are appealing the decision.


Information from: San Antonio Express-News,