Long-time New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson has died, the team announced Thursday afternoon.
The statement said that Benson “passed away peacefully” today at Ochsner Medical Center with his wife Gayle Marie Benson at his side. He was hospitalized with the flu on Feb. 16.
Benson purchased the Saints in 1985 after learning that the team was on the verge of being sold to parties who planned to relocate the team. In 1987, the team posted its first winning season and advanced to the playoffs for the first time. The team earned its first Super Bowl bid in 2009 and claimed the Lombardi Trophy in a 31-17 win win over the Indianapolis Colts.
In 2012, Benson also purchased the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets franchise from the NBA. The team was soon rebranded as the New Orleans Pelicans.
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Benson also assisted in several charitable, faith-based and educational causes in New Orleans and in South Texas. Benson’s businesses and sports teams put millions of dollars back into the community through financial support, charitable appearances, in-kind donations and the donations of goods and services.
He was born on July 12, 1927 in New Orleans to Thomas Milton Benson Sr. and Carmelite Marie Pintado Benson. He was raised in the 7th Ward neighborhood in New Orleans. He graduated from St. Aloysius High School (now Brother Martin) in 1944.
He enrolled in Loyola University of New Orleans to study business and accounting, but left the school to enlist in the U.S. Navy, where he was assigned to the USS South Dakota. Upon conclusion of World War II, Benson returned to New Orleans and continued his business administration studies.
Benson began work as a bookkeeper for Cathey Chevrolet Co. in New Orleans. At the age of 29 in 1956, Benson became a junior partner at a Chevrolet dealership. Six years later, he took full control of the company and built a multi-dealership organization with outlets throughout the New Orleans area and South Texas.
In 1972, Benson entered the banking business and eventually took his banking network public as Benson Financial World.
The only thing posted to the Saints website Thursday was a photo of Benson with 1927-2018 scribed underneath.
Many NFL players and officials took to Twitter to pay their respects to Benson and his family.