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Gayle Benson (American businesswoman) Bio, Facts. 

Gayle Benson

Born Name: Gayle Marie LaJaunie
Date of Birth: January 26, 1947
Place of Birth: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Nationality: American
Occupation: Businesswoman and sports franchise owner
Known for: Principal owner of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans
Net worth: US$3.1 billion (January 2020)
Siblings: Brenda M. LaJaunie, Wayne J. LaJaunie
Parents: Francis J. LaJaunie, Marie LaJaunie

Spouse(s): Nace Anthony Salomone (m. 1967; div. 1972), Thomas "T-Bird" Bird(m. 1977; div. 1987), Tom Benson (m. 2004; died 2018)

Gayle Marie LaJaunie Bird Benson (born January 26, 1947) is an American billionaire, businesswoman, philanthropist, and sports franchise owner.

Following the death of her husband, Tom Benson, she became principal owner of the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League (NFL) and the New Orleans Pelicans of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 2018.

Benson is the first woman to be the majority shareholder of the voting stock in an NFL and NBA franchise.

Early life
She was born Gayle Marie LaJaunie, the daughter of Francis J. LaJaunie (January 5, 1924–July 18, 2010), and Marie Folse LaJaunie (1924-May 30, 2010).

She grew up in Algiers, New Orleans and attended St. Joseph, St. Anthony and Holy Name of Mary schools. She graduated from Martin Behrman High School in 1966.

Career
Early career
Benson began her career in receptionist and secretarial positions before starting a home buying and renovating business with her second husband, Thomas "T-Bird" Bird. Following their divorce, Benson started an interior decorating business called Gayle Bird Interiors, Ltd.

She was involved in 20 civil lawsuits over a 13 year period, beginning in 1987, for allegations of overbilling clients, nonpayment, and others. She was arrested and charged with theft of furniture from a client. The district attorney declined to prosecute. She had both state and federal tax liens against her business for failure to pay taxes. In the first ten years, Gayle and her then-husband Thomas Bird, renovated one hundred properties.

New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans
Benson became the owner of both the Saints and Pelicans following the death of her husband Tom.

Benson is one of ten female NFL owners, including Martha Firestone Ford (Detroit Lions), Kim Pegula (Buffalo Bills), Carol Davis (Oakland Raiders), Denise DeBartolo York (San Francisco 49ers), Amy Adams Strunk (Tennessee Titans), Virginia Halas McCaskey (Chicago Bears), Janice McNair (Houston Texans), Jody Allen (Seattle Seahawks), and Dee Haslam (Cleveland Browns).

Tom Benson had planned on bequeathing the voting stock shares of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans to his daughter Renee Benson, grandson Ryan Benson LeBlanc, and granddaughter Rita Benson LeBlanc.

On December 27, 2014, Tom Benson wrote an e-mail to his daughter and two grandchildren stating he wanted "no further contact with any of you." Gayle Benson was named his heir.

Tom Benson's daughter and grandchildren filed lawsuits challenging his decision to name Gayle his heir, questioning his mental competency.

Tom Benson was determined to be mentally competent and was allowed to change his estate and leave wife ownership of the New Orleans Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Labor complaints
In 1989, employees of Gayle Bird Interiors, Ltd., filed a law suit in Civil District Court, Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana, for unpaid wages, penalty, and attorneys fees. The law suit was settled out of court and on March 16, 1998, the judge dismissed the case as abandoned, pursuant to Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure 561, for want of prosecution for five years.

Rodney Henry, former personal assistant to Tom Benson, filed a lawsuit accusing the New Orleans Saints and Gayle Benson of racism and violations of federal labor laws. The lawsuit claimed that Gayle Benson had treated him with disrespect because of his race. An NFL arbitrator ruled in favor of Henry and against the Saints on the labor complaint, awarding him overtime pay, a contractual payout for his dismissal, and attorney's fees. The arbitrator ruled against Henry on the claims of racism.

Dixie Brewing Company, LLC
In July 2017, it was announced that Tom and Gayle Benson had finalized an agreement to buy a majority share of Dixie Brewing Co. The company's brewery plant had been damaged and closed after Hurricane Katrina. On August 7, 2018, Benson announced, with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, that Dixie Brewery would open a distribution center at the old MacFrugal's Distribution Center in New Orleans East.

Personal life
She has been married three times. Her first marriage was to Nace Anthony Salomone, on April 8, 1967, which ended in a divorce and annulment in 1972. Her second marriage was to Thomas "T-Bird" Bird, on February 14, 1977, in South Pass, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, which ended in a divorce on June 25, 1987.

Gayle's third marriage was to Tom Benson, who she was married to until his death in 2018. They met at St. Louis Cathedral, after Gayle participated in a mass in memory of Tom Benson's late wife, Grace Benson. They married on October 29, 2004, in San Antonio.

On October 22, 2014, Gayle Benson and her husband commemorated their tenth anniversary by renewing their wedding vows at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans.

Philanthropy
While married, Gayle and Tom Benson funded the construction of the Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, which opened on campus on September 1, 2008.

In January 2012, Benson and her husband were awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice for their service to Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI.

In November 2012 Gayle Benson and her husband, Tom, donated $7.5 million towards the construction of Tulane University's Yulman Stadium. The playing surface is known as Benson Field.

In 2015 the Benson family gave $20 million for cancer care and research.

In February 2019 the Gayle and Tom Benson Charitable Trust donated $5 million to Jesuit High School.

In March 2019 the Gayle and Tom Benson Charitable Trust donated $3.5 million to Second Harvest

In September 2019 the Gayle and Tom Benson Charitable Trust donated $1 million to the campaign of Children's of Mississippi to build a playground at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

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Categories: 1947 births,American sports businesspeople,American women philanthropists,American billionaires,Female billionaires,National Football League owners,National Basketball Association owners,Women National Football League executives,Women sports owners,New Orleans Pelicans executives,American racehorse owners and breeders

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