Tom Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans teams, has died at the age of 90. Despite his advanced age, his death was not expected. How did Tom Benson die? What was his cause of death?
Although his official cause of death was not announced right as news broke that he had died on March 15, 2018, Benson died at the hospital. He was hospitalized for the flu, the team has confirmed on its website. The flu has claimed the lives of people all over the United States this year, many of them children or elderly. Benson first ended up in the hospital on February 16, according to USA Today.
“Tom Benson, 90, passed away peacefully Thursday, March 15 at Ochsner Medical Center with his wife Gayle Marie Benson at his side. Mr. Benson was hospitalized with the flu Feb. 16,” the team wrote.
Benson was not a person who came from affluent means, and he was a veteran of the U.S. Navy. Thomas Milton Benson, Jr. was born on July 12, 1927 in New Orleans to Thomas Milton Benson Sr. and Carmelite Marie Pintado Benson, according to the team’s statement. “Raised in the 7th Ward neighborhood of New Orleans, Mr. Benson graduated from St. Aloysius High School (now Brother Martin) in 1944,” the team reported. “Following his high school graduation, he enrolled at Loyola University New Orleans to study business and accounting. He interrupted his education to enlist in the U.S. Navy, where he was assigned to the USS South Dakota. Upon the conclusion of World War II, Mr. Benson returned home to New Orleans and continued his business administration studies.”
He became well-known when he purchased some of New Orleans’ best known sports franchises. Benson has owned the Saints since the 1980s. “In 1985, Mr. Benson purchased the New Orleans Saints after learning that the NFL franchise was on the verge of being sold to parties interested in relocating the team. Mr. Benson purchased the Saints on May, 31, 1985,” the team says. He added an NBA franchise to his repertoire. “In 2012, Mr. Benson purchased the National Basketball Association’s New Orleans Hornets franchise from the NBA, which the following season, he rebranded and had renamed the New Orleans Pelicans,” the team statement said.
He wasn’t always wealthy. As NFL.com wrote, “When he was a child in New Orleans, Tom Benson used to walk to and from school a few miles from his home in the Seventh Ward, pocketing the precious few pennies his family gave him for the streetcar because he didn’t like spending money he instead could save.”
He is survived by his wife Gayle. He started out as a car salesman, building his fortune in auto dealerships. Benson was known for his charitable giving. “Through his sports teams, business interests and the Gayle and Tom Benson Foundation, Mr. Benson was dedicated to assisting a myriad of charitable, faith-based and educational causes in the New Orleans and South Texas communities,” the Saints reported.
According to Forbes Magazine, Tom Benson had a net worth of $3 billion. “Benson spent the past few years locked in a bitter dispute with his daughter and grandchildren over control of much of his fortune,” Forbes reported. “The nasty feud, in which family members claimed he was mentally incompetent to run the teams, ended in February 2017 with a confidential settlement.”