NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Tom Benson, a successful auto dealer who brought the New Orleans Saints their only winning seasons and the "Benson Boogie," has died. Benson, who has also owned the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans since 2012, was 90.
The NFL and NBA teams announced Benson's death on Thursday.
Benson made his mark in pro sports with the Saints, which he bought in 1985 when it appeared the club would be sold to out-of-state interests and perhaps moved out of Louisiana. He paid $70 million for the team, which is now worth more than $1 billion.
Benson's business acumen helped turn the Saints from a perennial also-ran into a contender - and the 2009 NFL champion. Yet his ownership also was less flatteringly marked by the 2012 bounty scandal and by rumors Benson did not want to bring the team back to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released the following statement on Benson:
Tom Benson's contributions to New Orleans and the National Football League were legendary. He purchased a team that had never had a winning season; by the third year of his ownership, the Saints were in the playoffs. Tom kept the Saints together through the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, and his decision to bring the team back to New Orleans gave the entire region hope and confidence that they would recover. The Saints rewarded their fans with tremendous football and a Super Bowl championship.
Tom loved New Orleans, where he was a generous and caring philanthropist. Within the NFL, he was a true leader among NFL owners. He served as the chairman of the League's Finance Committee for many years, was a key advisor to my predecessors, and was someone whom I frequently turned to since becoming Commissioner. I know that the entire NFL family joins me in extending our most heartfelt condolences to Gayle Benson and the entire Saints organization.
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