by Jim Brown
If you haven’t been following the Benson family soap opera that has dominated news across the state, you are missing a billion dollar power play that’s much better than fiction. New Orleans automobile tycoon and sports icon Tom Benson is in a fight with family heirs over his competency to run two of the nation’s premier sports franchises, the New Orleans football Saints and the basketball NBA Pelicans. And the family quarrel could put the continuing presence of these sports goldmines at risk of leaving New Orleans.
Despite being the mild, low-key guy that I am, I do not often refuse the opportunity to appear on one of the local sports programs. The local TV guys like Doug Mouton (WWL), Rob Masson (WVUE), Fletcher Mackel (WDSU), and their colleagues always give me an opportunity to push whatever book project I am working on in exchange for my thoughts on the issue of the moment. So it was uncharacteristic of me on Wednesday night and Thursday morning to turn down three offers to come in and comment on Tom Benson’s surprising announcement that when he passes on he is leaving the city’s two beloved sports franchises to his wife Gayle.
As if the administration’s handling of bogus criminal accusations against former Commissioner of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control Murphy Painter wasn’t already embarrassing enough after Painter’s acquittal ended up costing the state $474,000 in reimbursement of his legal fees and expenses, a recent civil court decision has added insult to injury.
Two audit reports released this week by Legislative Auditor Daryl Pupera’s office focus on documentation of expenses related to hurricane recovery and costs incurred by the state for vacant office space in downtown New Orleans as part of a costly incentive package to induce Saints owner Tom Benson to keep the NFL team in New Orleans
Jim Finks has been given his just due for escorting the New Orleans Saints franchise from the outhouse to the NFL penthouse.
Today's theme, at least in New Orleans, is out with the old and in with the new. The Hornets lost to the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night to end a dismal 27-55 season, but on Thursday morning the New Orleans Pelicans are undefeated and looking skyward. At midnight, the Hornets turned into a pumpkin likely to be returned to Charlotte, and Tom Benson's new Pelicans franchise officially opened for business.