Benson reportedly died peacefully at Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson, La., with his wife Gayle Marie Benson by his side.
Benson, a New Orleans native, purchased the Saints in 1985 when the team was on the brink of being sold and relocated. The franchise won its lone only Super Bowl championship under his ownership in 2009.
The Saints have gone to the playoffs 11 times and won six division titles during Benson's tenure. New Orleans also hosted the Super Bowl five times during his ownership.
The Saints are the 27th-most valuable franchise in the NFL at $2 billion according to Forbes as of 2017.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement, "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."
Benson purchased the Pelicans from the NBA for $338 million in 2012. The team was named the Hornets at the time, but he rebranded the franchise to give it more of a New Orleans flavor.
"The NBA family mourns the loss of New Orleans Pelicans owner Tom Benson," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "Big-hearted and gracious, Tom topped off a distinguished business and sports career by acquiring the Pelicans in 2012. During his tenure, he hosted two highly-successful All-Star Games, rebranded the franchise and installed a first-class organization. He was a dear friend to me and so many others in the sports world, and the loss of his authentic and unique presence will leave an enormous void. We send our heartfelt condolences to Gayle, their family, the Pelicans and Saints, and his countless friends."
There has been a lot of friction over what would happen to the franchises when Benson died. The battle became in 2014 when Benson cut out three heirs, leading to a legal battle. In 2015, Benson filed a lawsuit to remove daughter Renee, along with grandchildren Ryan and Rita LeBlanc, out of any ownership stake.
A settlement was reached in 2016.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said of Benson, according to the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, "The simple fact of the matter is that New Orleans and Louisiana will not be the same without Tom Benson. We will never forget everything that he has done. He believed in our state when he bought the New Orleans Saints. He had been a great ambassador for Louisiana ever since."
--Field Level Media