Saints, Pelicans owner Tom Benson again makes Forbes' billionaires list; see where he ranks among world’s richest _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson arrives for the game Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, before the New Orleans Saints play the Tennessee Titans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

As litigation plays out about who will eventually inherit his business empire, New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson has once again made Forbes’ annual billionaires list.

Benson, 88, remains the richest man in Louisiana, with a net worth pegged at $2.2 billion, the publication reported. That’s good for No. 288 on Forbes’ list of the 400 richest people in America. Forbes ranked Benson as 810th worldwide.

It’s been a good few years for Benson: A year ago, Forbes estimated his net worth at $1.9 billion, which put him at 351st in the U.S. and 1,006th worldwide. In March 2014, Forbes ranked Benson as 1,154th worldwide, with an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion.

Benson’s holdings include a 26-story downtown office building that’s named for him and Champions Square, the outdoor entertainment venue next to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, according to Forbes.

“He started out as a bookkeeper at a Chevrolet dealership in New Orleans before funneling his earnings into a steady procession of his own auto dealerships, local banks and, eventually, sports teams,” the publication noted.

Benson and others paid $70 million for the Saints in 1985. He bought out his partners in 1993 in a deal that valued the team at $120 million.

Last year, Forbes valued the Saints at about $1.5 billion.

Benson acquired the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans in April 2012 for $338 million. This year, Forbes estimated that Pelicans worth at $650 million — making them the least-valuable NBA team but still worth nearly twice as much as what Benson paid when the team was still known as the Hornets.

In January 2015, Benson announced that his third wife, Gayle, would eventually inherit his business empire, setting off more than a year of litigation. Benson’s daughter, Renee Benson, and her children, Ryan and Rita LeBlanc, filed a lawsuit alleging that Benson was in declining mental and physical health and had been manipulated into making that decision.

Last week, the state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal upheld a judge’s ruling that Benson was mentally competent when he cut his daughter and grandchildren out of his succession plans.

The five richest people in America on the Forbes list were former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, $75 billion; Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, $61 billion; Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos $45 billion; Facebook chief executive and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, $45 billion; and Oracle founder Larry Ellison, $44 billion.