NEW ORLEANS (AP) — In a court deposition, Tom Benson said he ousted his daughter and grandchildren from executive positions in the Saints and Pelicans after a confrontation turned physical between his daughter, Renee, and his wife, Gayle.
The deposition, filed in federal court in New Orleans this week, was taken in late March at Benson's offices in suburban New Orleans. It's part of a federal lawsuit over Benson's decision to remove his family members' shares in his NBA and NFL franchises from a trust and substitute other assets.
Benson said in the deposition that his daughter and two grandchildren "tried to kill me" by picking on his wife and behaving in a hostile manner.
Randy Smith, an attorney for Renee and her children, Ryan and Rita LeBlanc, strongly denied that the alleged confrontation occurred.
"It's sad that he would think that, that somehow that would be in his memory because it didn't happen, just like his family did not try to kill him," Smith said. "All they're trying to do is protect him, make sure he gets the medical care, love and support that he needs."
Benson said the hostility included a 2014 confrontation in his Superdome suite when Renee allegedly shook Gayle.
Smith said Renee was not at the game Benson referenced. "Everyone knows that except apparently Mr. Benson," Smith said.
In January 2015, Benson fired Renee and her children from executive positions with the teams. He announced a decision to make Gayle Benson the sole heir to the NFL and NBA clubs.
According to the deposition transcript, lawyers asked Benson, 88, why he wanted to do so. His answer: "Well, they tried to kill me for one thing."
Question: "Okay. How so?"
Answer: "Well you know, by picking on my wife and when I wasn't feel (sic) very good, they were very hostile."
Answer: "As a matter of fact, I cut them off from everything. I don't have them to Saints games or Pelicans or nothing."
Later, Benson was asked what made him decide that he didn't want them to attend Saints or Pelicans games anymore.
"Well, first thing they came into my suite and starting fighting with us," he said. "Saying ugly things and everything."
He said he recalled his daughter, granddaughter and possibly his grandson came into the suite as he was trying to watch a Saints game.
"And they started picking on Gayle. And it got so bad, Renee shook her, and I said, 'That's enough. Let's go.' Gayle and I left the game."
Benson later said about 30 people were in the suite at the time the alleged shaking occurred but he couldn't name anyone specifically.
He was asked whether it was fair to say that Gayle Benson doesn't like his daughter.
"No, I don't know that," he answered. "She never told me. Certainly after that incident she didn't like her. I didn't either."
The federal judge in the trust case recently ruled that Benson has authority to substitute assets in trusts established for the estranged relatives. That means he can substitute stock in the teams with promissory notes and other assets.
The multifaceted legal battle is still playing out in courts in Louisiana and Texas. Aside from likely appeals, the actual value of the assets being substituted will have to be determined. A trial in the case is set for June 20.
Associated Press writer Kevin McGill in New Orleans contributed to this story.
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Posted on Mon, May 23, 2016
by CHEVEL JOHNSON, Associated Press