In their first such action since being appointed to temporarily oversee the decision-making of a trust set up for the benefit of Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson’s now-estranged daughter, a former San Antonio mayor and an estate lawyer this week asked a Texas judge for permission to pay off $206,997 owed to the holding company that includes New Orleans’ NFL team.
Phil Hardberger and Art Bayern also filed a separate motion Monday asking Bexar County Probate Court Judge Tom Rickhoff to pay $3,853 to an accounting firm the pair retained to help them prepare a list of assets and liabilities related to the trust created by Benson’s first wife — Shirley, who died in 1980 — for the benefit of daughter Renee Benson.
That inventory is due to Rickhoff on March 25, said lawyer C. David Kinder, who represents Hardberger and Bayern.
Kinder on Tuesday said Hardberger and Bayern had already paid off some of the trust’s liabilities prior to Monday’s motions. But he said they wanted the court’s approval both for the large payment due to the holding company and for the $3,853 expense they incurred in the course of their duties, which are to determine how much the trust benefiting Renee Benson owes and to whom.
The $206,997 mentioned in Monday’s motions forms a portion of almost $9 million the trust owes to a company called Benson Football LLC. The only amount that was due on that debt was an interest payment. The annual interest due on the $9 million owed to Benson Football LLC is about $103,498, Kinder said.
A family feud involving Benson became headline news after the billionaire announced he wanted to bar his daughter, Renee Benson, and her children, Ryan and Rita LeBlanc, from any future role with his sports franchises and other businesses. The twice-widowed Benson had previously designated Renee and her children to be the primary inheritors of his businesses when he died, but in January, he said he had decided he wanted his third wife, Gayle, to eventually assume the reins of his various Louisiana- and Texas-based properties.
Part of the response from Renee was to ask Rickhoff to suspend her father as overseer of the trust set up by her mother and to transfer the decision-making powers to her. Rickhoff suspended Benson as overseer of the trust but did not give that job to Renee, assigning it to Hardberger and Bayern instead. Benson is appealing Rickhoff’s ruling to suspend him from overseeing the trust created by his first wife.
Meanwhile, in New Orleans, Renee and her children filed a lawsuit seeking to have the 87-year-old Benson declared mentally unfit to make business decisions. He has undergone a mental evaluation conducted by three doctors as part of that lawsuit, and the results should be reported to Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese in the coming weeks.
On yet another front of the legal wrangling, Benson on March 10 filed a federal lawsuit in New Orleans requesting that a judge allow him to extract non-controlling shares of his professional sports franchises and other businesses from a group of separate trusts set aside for Renee and her childre
The defendant in the federal lawsuit in New Orleans is Robert “Bobby” Rosenthal, the trustee of the separate trusts benefiting Renee and her children. Rosenthal, a lawyer in San Antonio, acknowledged in a filing Tuesday that he received a copy of the lawsuit but reserved “all defenses or objections to (it), the court’s jurisdiction and the venue of the action.”