Friday, 16 March 2018 18:48

Former New Orleans Saints Exec VP Jim Miller discusses Tom Benson, the man, the owner

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miller benson2How did a man, not born of wealth, somehow, start out as a car salesman, then a dealer and then a banker and then an owner of major sports franchises, do it?  I mean, how did Tom Benson, who passed away yesterday at age 90, who owned the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans, emerge as a billionaire, philanthropist and one of the most important men in Louisiana history?

Whatever it was that enabled Benson to do what he did starting from so little, I want to bottle it.

One of the persons who knew Tom Benson very well is James W. Miller (otherwise known as Jim Miller), the former Executive Vice President of the New Orleans Saints. Miller handled contracts for the Saints and other responsibilities. Today, Jim and I talked about Tom Benson--the type of person he was, what drove him to get where he wanted to go, which apparently, was to serve New Orleans and Louisiana, the fullest extent he could.


Below is an excerpt of the interview which segment starts at the 3 minute, 03 second mark on the Youtube video and which ends at the 8 minutes, 18 second mark.

Do watch the entire interview with Jim Miller as we discuss comments made on twitter by former and current New Orleans Saints. Such as Dante Stallworth and Drew Brees. During the interview, Miller discusses how Benson treated his former players and team officials, the future of the Saints under Gayle Benson and a number of other issues.

SABLUDOWSKY: I'm just wondering is there one thing that you can say about your experience with Tom Benson that you really want to get out there? 

MILLER: Well I'm going to put it put all my thoughts from the last 18 hours on my website  later this morning, but in short the what I'd like people to know about Tom was his great integrity, his passion for for success, his passion to be successful and to lift his, his employees to challenge his people--every, anybody around him to try to equal his level of passion and success.  And you know that took many forms especially in the early years.  It's funny that occasionally I've seen Mickey Loomis on the golf course and Mickey and I will laugh about the Tom Benson I knew, between again versus the Tom Benson he worked for.  And the Tom Benson I knew was the new NFL owner who really didn't know, what he didn't know, yet--but who was bright enough to, to hire people that did know it.  And his best harm was general manager Jim Finks, who hired me, hired Jim Mora, hired Billy Kuarich, who hired all of us who worked hard at turning around the image of the Saints, which i think we did to Tom's credit. 

SABLUDOWSKY: So let's see let me go back when did Tom Benson actually, say become the owner of the New Orleans Saints? 

MILLER: He was the owner, he bought the team in May I think May 31st 1985, and it was just before the 85 season Bum Phillips was still coach and he he went through that season and toward the end of the season--that's when he made the change with about four games to go.  He released Bum of his duties, hired his son Wade Phillips, who was an assistant as the temporary head coach, and then  cleaned out the front office and we came aboard shortly thereafter . 

SABLUDOWSKY: Okay, in terms of Tom Benson, the man, I mean you talk about you know his passion--he didn't have much football knowledge or sports knowledge did he? I mean I hear that he did not? 

MILLER: No. I think you're exactly right.  What Tom had was a passion for New Orleans, and when John Mecon jr. the old owner made it known that he wanted to put the team up for sale, there weren't a whole lot of local people that stepped up to the plate.  There were a lot of people elsewhere who tried to convince Pete Rozelle, the commissioner, that they'd to come in, they buy the Saints, but when you get a person from Los Angeles or from St. Louis, or from points east west north and south-- there they're probably going to buy a team and take it to New York or St. Louis or Jacksonville and that was a very serious and very real threat in in those days in 1985.  Until Tom Benson stepped up he he was a member of an investor group that was interested, but he didn't intend to be the guy.  It just evolved that once when the membership group got, was put together I think he only owned about nine percent of that membership group, but the membership group own thirty seven percent which was the majority partnership.  And so his business acumen was so high that he created--if you okay, if you guys want me to run it, all right, but here's what we're gonna do.   

He created kind of an Al Davis scenario in Oakland where whereas Davis didn't have very much of the team initially, he had a very small percentage of the team, but he created what was called a managing general partnership that gave him total control.  And that's what Tom did, he created a managing general partnership that created, gave him total control, and it also allowed him within a period of I believe eight years to, if he chose to do it, he'd buy out the other owners.  

Which is exactly what happened, you know he he paid his group, paid seventy two million dollars for the team and in 1993 he bought them out at a at a rate of ninety three million dollars and I think that shows you how fast that the Saints were were appreciating.  And it also showed you showed something in the fact that some of the investors bought because they thought the price should have been higher. 

But after, after ninety three, Tom owned a hundred percent of the team and had the total control in fact, as well as in contract.


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Stephen Sabludowsky | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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