Editor's note:*The following is a statement written by New Orleans Saints owner Gayle Benson that was sent to the 31 other franchises, and obtained by NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. *
April 12, 2018
The passing of my beloved husband, Tom, has been an emotionally trying time for me, the proud members of the New Orleans Saints staff and our entire community. We very much appreciate the countless thoughts, prayers and remembrances that so many have shared in the wake of his passing. He is greatly missed.
As is standard NFL practice, my husband provided a report to the Commissioner summarizing the Ownership Succession Plan of the New Orleans Saints. For clarity, my husband's plan and desire was for me to have full voting control of the Saints and to serve as Controlling Owner of the team per NFL rules. I understood this and want to reassure you that I am fully prepared to assume this role. Moving forward, I too, will provide the Commissioner my very own Ownership Succession Plan of the New Orleans Saints. Please rest assured, I will own and operate this franchise until my death and do so with the same drive and focus towards success that my husband displayed throughout his life.
Tom has entrusted me with an organization that is in strong financial and operational shape and I can promise you I will actively manage this franchise with strong leadership. I will continue along the visionary path my husband forged for the Saints over the course of his ownership. Since 2006 our team has sold out all of its home games, including premium seating and suites, and built a season ticket waiting list that exceeds 60,000 people. We will once again achieve these benchmarks in the upcoming 2018 season. We also continue to set franchise records, both on and off the field. We will continue to operate with this same sense of pride and good business practices going forward. To that end, we will carry on my husband's wishes and be a leader in the very important principles of diversity, inclusion, innovation and best practices. I am highly confident we are in good hands with our tenured team of senior executives and staff. I've been heartened to see how our organization has pulled together even more closely through the trying time of my husband's passing. We have honored his legacy and will respectfully commemorate the great contributions he made throughout his four decades of NFL ownership during the upcoming season. I have been fortunate to be able to learn so much from my husband by working side-by-side with him since 2004 and attending League meetings for the past 15 years, meeting and talking with you and many of the other Owners. One of the core values of my husband was his daily interaction at the office, attending executive meetings and being briefed on all matters large and small. He even insisted on having lunch every day in our team cafeteria so that our staff would have the chance to talk with him and share their thoughts and ideas. I was with him each and every day, in each meeting and will continue that tradition. Like Tom, I will continue the same commitment to the League, organization and staff. Our franchise is successful because of the foundation he has laid. It is important that these core values do not change.
Tom took great pride in the business of the NFL and wore the considerable time he spent on the Finance Committee (including several years as the Chair of the Committee) as a true badge of accomplishment. To that end, I am anxious to be involved in committees that will also help forge and direct the future of our great game. Tom and I both took pride in personally knowing the players and coaches that comprised our roster and looking after them not just as employees, but as sons, husbands and fathers, as well. While Tom could be a tough and demanding boss, he was also kind and compassionate and cared greatly about those around him, and he thought it was extremely important that the Saints be positive leaders in our local and regional communities. I will continue his unwavering belief in charitable and philanthropic work while exploring avenues to further strengthen our local communities.
It has been an honor and a privilege to be at Tom's side since 2004 and to work with you over the years. This year's meetings in Orlando were both emotionally challenging and rewarding, particularly with the many heartfelt exchanges I shared with so many. In closing, I want to assure you that the New Orleans Saints are in good hands and my vision for strong, long lasting ownership and continuity are in place and already at work. I am also eager to play an active role in helping our League grow and prosper and hope I can bring a fresh perspective to the many challenges and opportunities that our League faces. I look forward to working closely with you as our League moves forward.