During a New Orleans Saints game last season, owner Tom Benson’s wife, Gayle Benson, and his granddaughter Rita LeBlanc got into an argument that momentarily turned physical in Tom Benson’s suite, according to a NOLA.com report Saturday.
Asked Jan. 23 at his office whether there had been a confrontation that turned physical during the Saints-Falcons game on Dec. 21, LeBlanc’s lawyer, Randy Smith, said that his client indicated nothing like that occurred.
Asked a similar question in late January, Tom Benson’s attorney, Phillip Wittmann, said he was unaware if an exchange ever turned physical.
Saints and Pelicans spokesman Greg Bensel declined comment on the report.
In the NOLA.com report, sources said LeBlanc confronted Gayle Benson before the game and, at some point, grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her repeatedly during the exchange.
During a hearing in Texas in early February related to the dispute between Tom Benson and his relatives, there was testimony about an incident in which LeBlanc allegedly said “some unpleasant things to Gayle” during the Dec. 21 game while asking Gayle to allow Tom Benson’s daughter, Renee, to visit with her father.
Following the game and the reported incident, Tom Benson, Saints President Dennis Lauscha and adviser Stanley Rosenberg reportedly met for more than an hour.
As the online report points out, Tom Benson sent a letter about a week later to his daughter and grandchildren, saying he no longer wanted to have any contact with them. In January, Tom Benson barred the three from future dealings with the Saints, Pelicans and his other assets.
Tom Benson, twice widowed, said he instead wanted his third wife to inherit the reins of his business empire when he dies.
Part of daughter Renee Benson’s response to being cut off by her father was to ask a Texas court to freeze the assets in a trust created for her by her mother, Shirley Benson, who died in 1980.
Separately, Renee and her children filed a lawsuit in New Orleans Civil District Court seeking to have the 87-year-old Benson declared mentally unfit to make his own business decisions. Three physicians were chosen Wednesday to conduct a court-ordered mental evaluation, and they are expected to report their findings around mid-March.
Staff writer Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed to this report.