- Mike Triplett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Owner Tom Benson, who turns 87 this summer, remains actively involved on a daily basis with both of his pro sports franchises in New Orleans -- the NFL's Saints and the NBA's Pelicans. And he still has his foot firmly on the gas pedal as New Orleans is making its push to host the 2018 Super Bowl.
However, the question of the Saints' future succession plan is a natural one after three of Benson's longtime contemporaries died over the past six months -- Bud Adams, Williams Clay Ford and, most recently, Ralph Wilson.
The Saints have never publicly detailed a specific plan. But team spokesman Greg Bensel confirmed that an estate plan is in place that will include the transfer of ownership to members of Benson's family.
And Bensel stressed that there should be no concerns about the Saints' long-term future in New Orleans. That's worth stressing, since Wilson's passing has led to some uncertainty about the Buffalo Bills' future in western New York.
The Bills' situation is different, since the franchise will be reportedly controlled by a trust before being sold at some point in the coming years. That won't be the case with the Saints.
Bensel confirmed the general outline that was laid out in an article by The Times-Picayune.
"The plan is structured for a smooth transition of ownership rights with the ultimate goal of little, if any, impact on the operations of the teams,” Benson told the Picayune. “As both franchises are locked into long-term leases with the state (of Louisiana) there is absolutely no desire, threat or discussion related to the relocation of the teams."
It's unclear exactly how ownership would be split among Benson's daughter Renee Benson and his grandchildren Rita Benson LeBlanc and Ryan LeBlanc. And it's unknown what role Benson's wife Gayle would have with the club.
But it is believed that the Saints' and Pelicans' current management structure would remain intact going forward, with Saints president Dennis Lauscha and executive vice president/general manager Mickey Loomis serving as the key decision-makers.
The team's board of directors includes the Benson family members, Lauscha, Loomis and longtime Benson advisers Tom Roddy and Stanley Rosenberg.
As the Times-Picayune article pointed out, Benson underwent triple-bypass heart surgery in 2005 but has remained in relatively good health ever since.
"Mr. Benson comes to the office every day and remains very active in the day-to-day operations," Bensel said in the article. "He often has regular check-ups and always comes back to the office saying, 'Clean bill of health. I'm going to be around for awhile.'"