Gayle Benson’s estate plan calls for Saints to be sold, with proceeds given to charity

Gayle Benson’s estate plan calls for Saints to be sold, with proceeds given to charity

Tom Benson bought the Saints in 1985. After his widow passes, the team will be sold.

Gayle Benson, 74, has revealed her succession plan to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. It consists of the Saints being sold, with the money given to local charities.

“I can’t take it with me,” Gayle Benson told the Times-Picayune. “God gives us gifts, and this is a gift. I am a steward for this [organization]. And we help other people with it. My wish is to scatter all the good and gifts that God and Tom have given me to this city and community.”

Gayle Benson inherited the team after Tom Benson died in 2018.

Team executives are reportedly working to ensure that the buyer, whoever it may be, will keep the team in New Orleans. That will hinge in large part on the Superdome lease, which currently runs through 2025. Ongoing negotiations could extend the lease to 2035, and possibly longer than that.

The NFL already has approved Mrs. Benson’s succession plan, which must be updated annually. Eventually, the owners will have to approve the buyer.

That’s where it gets tricky. The good news is that, as time passes, the value of the team will increase — and the sale price and proceeds will expand accordingly. The not-so-good news is that, as franchise values climb, it will become harder and harder to find a qualified buyer. The qualified buyer may feel little or no guilt about eventually moving the team, given the billions that will be generated for local charities when the team is purchased. Likewise, a buyer who is committed to keeping the team in place may want to pay less for the team.

One strategy would be to identify a price premised on the team staying put. The deal also would include balloon payment that the buyer or the buyer’s successor would be required to pay if, for example, the team is moved within a certain number of years.