Trial for Tom Benson’s Saints, Pelicans ownership dispute moved to February

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Katherine Sayre of The Times-Picayune reports that a federal judge Tuesday (Aug. 30) pushed back a trial in Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson’s team ownership fight to February.

 

In the meantime, lawyers in the case have until Oct. 28 to question representatives of the National Football League and the National Basketball Association in depositions, U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo ordered (NOLA.com).

 

Benson, 89, is suing to remove ownership shares in the Saints and Pelicans out of trust funds created for his daughter, Renee Benson, and grandchildren Rita and Ryan LeBlanc (NOLA.com).

 

He disowned the would-be heirs after a bitter fallout in December 2014. The billionaire announced he instead intends to leave full ownership of the teams to his wife Gayle Benson (NOLA.com).

 

Earlier this month, Milazzo had ordered a trial to start on Dec. 8 after weeks of settlement negotiations between lawyers for Benson and the trustees protecting the trust funds — San Antonio lawyers Robert Rosenthal and Mary Rowe — failed to produce a final agreement (NOLA.com).

 

Milazzo decided to set the two-week trial for Feb. 6 after meeting with lawyers in her chambers Tuesday (NOLA.com).

 

Under the judge’s order, Benson has until Sept. 9 to amend his claims in the lawsuit, which Benson’s lawyers had requested. The trustees opposed that request and had asked the judge not to give Benson leeway to change his lawsuit (NOLA.com).

 

The trusts hold 60 percent of the Saints and 95 percent of the Pelicans. Tom Benson remains in control of the teams by owning all of the voting stock, while non-voting stock sits in the trusts (NOLA.com).

 

Benson has authority to remove assets from the trusts in exchange for assets of equal value. The trustees blocked Benson’s attempt to remove the team shares in exchange for promissory notes, arguing the deal wasn’t good enough (NOLA.com).

 

If the case does go to trial, testimony and evidence is expected to make public details of internal NFL and NBA financial information, the financial performance of the Saints and Pelicans, and Benson’s personal fortune (NOLA.com).

 

It wasn’t immediately clear who would represent the NFL and the NBA in depositions (NOLA.com).

 

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