Tom Benson family feud: Texas trustee wants case dismissed (TX/LA)

A San Antonio lawyer who oversaw trusts holding shares in the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans franchises asked a judge Friday (May 8) to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the teams’ owner Tom Benson, arguing the Louisiana court doesn’t have jurisdiction over business dealings in Texas.

It marks the latest step in the ongoing Benson family struggle over the billionaire patriarch’s fortune, including future ownership of the Saints and Pelicans teams.

Benson, controlling owner of the NBA and NFL franchises, filed a lawsuit in federal court in New Orleans on March 11 to remove all non-voting stock in the teams from trust funds he set up for his daughter, Renee Benson, and grandchildren Rita and Ryan LeBlanc — part of Tom Benson’s plan to cut-off his three heirs and leave the teams to his wife, Gayle Benson.

The lawsuit was filed against San Antonio lawyer Bobby Rosenthal, the trustee who put a hold on Benson’s attempt to transfer the assets in January. Rosenthal said the transfer could not go through until the value of the assets being exchanged could be proved equal.

On Friday, Rosenthal argued in a motion to dismiss that the case doesn’t belong in New Orleans because the trusts and assets are in Texas, as are the beneficiaries of the trusts. Rosenthal said he has never lived in or practiced law in Louisiana.

When the trusts were created, Tom Benson was a resident of Blanco County, Texas, where he was registered to vote, according to the filing. Benson and his wife now live in New Orleans.

Benson wants a judge to force trustees to let him take back stock in the teams and related assets in exchange for $556 million in promissory notes, real estate and $94 million in forgiven debt.

The 87-year-old has maintained all of the power over the Saints and Pelicans franchises by owning all of the voting shares and moving only non-voting shares into family trusts.

Benson owns 40 percent of the Saints, while his heirs’ trusts own 60 percent. The trusts own 95 percent of the Pelicans, with Benson owning only 5 percent — though his portion constitutes all the Pelicans’ voting shares.

In January, Benson announced he was leaving full ownership of the teams to his third wife, Gayle, rather than to Renee, Rita and Ryan. His jilted heirs then filed lawsuits in New Orleans and San Antonio, seeking to take control over the family wealth, including the teams.

The family assets are held in a complicated web of trusts and holding companies. In March, Rosenthal gave up some of this authority by resigning his post overseeing trusts created in 2012, and naming San Antonio lawyer Mary Rowe as his successor.

Rosenthal is still trustee over other trusts created in 2009, according to court records.

Attribution:

Tom Benson family feud: Texas trustee wants case dismissed
Katherine Sayre
May 8, 2015
The New Orleans Times-Picayune
http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2015/05/tom_benson_family_feud_texas_t.html

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