Benson family feud subject of court hearing in San Antonio over trust; Renee Benson expected to testify _lowres

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson walks with his wife Gayle Benson, left, and granddaughter, Rita LeBlanc, before an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

San Antonians and one of Texas' billionaires are stunned and saddened by the Tom Benson family drama unfolding before the public's eye.

"It's sad from every angle," B.J. "Red" McCombs told the San Antonio Express-News.

Besides McCombs, the report cites comments from Trish DeBerry and Christian Archer, two key figures while the Saints evacuated to the Alamo City after Hurricane Katrina. DeBerry is a San Antonio public relations consultant, and Archer was an assistant to then-Mayor Phil Hardberger.

"It was clear to all of us he thought the sun rose and set on her,” DeBerry said in the report, referencing Benson and Rita LeBlanc's relationship at the time.

Fast forward to the current state of affairs and Archer said "to watch this unfold on the front page is sad."

"She was the glue that held that organization together during a crazy time,” Archer said. “Everyone rallied around her. And when she said something, people jumped.

"...It was evident Mr. Benson had big plans for her Rita."

The most recent news in the Benson saga involves LeBlanc and her losing her spot on two NFL committess, according to a league source.

LeBlanc had served on the NFL’s Employee Benefits and International committees.

But the source said that is no longer the case after Benson decided to cut out LeBlanc, her mother Renee Benson and her brother Ryan LeBlanc as his heirs and instead make his third wife, Gayle, the principal heir to his billion-dollar business empire after he dies.

The three spurned heirs then sued Benson in Civil District Court, challenging his actions.

The removal of Rita LeBlanc from the committees could be an indication that in this dispute the NFL supports the wishes of Benson, 87, who purchased the Saints in 1985. Both the NFL and the NBA owners at some point will need to vote on whether to approve Gayle Benson as future owner of the Saints and Pelicans.

The source said the decision to remove Rita LeBlanc from the committees was at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s discretion.

In their suit, the LeBlanc siblings and their mother are seeking to have Benson declared mentally unfit to manage the business interests he holds in Louisiana and Texas. They want Civil District Judge Kern Reese to rule that Benson’s decision to remove them from his succession plans was invalid on the grounds that people around him have manipulated an octogenarian whose physical and mental health have waned.

Benson has countered that he’s physically and mentally fine. He has said in written statements that he fired his relatives as his employees and never wants to speak to them again because they were incompetent and were rude to Gayle for years.

Reese on Tuesday ordered Benson to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before determining how far to let the lawsuit proceed. A three-doctor team to be assembled by Feb. 25 will conduct the evaluation; its findings are due to Reese by March 13.

Staff writer Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed to this report.