A bit of news came out last night about our beloved Saints. As reported by The Times-Picayune, “New Orleans Saints, Pelicans ownership shocker: wife Gayle, not granddaughter Rita, will control empire after Tom Benson dies.”
Of course, as with anything of this sort, there’s all manner of speculation. Did Rita want to eventually move the team out of New Orleans? Is Gayle (a much younger 3rd wife for Tom Benson) a gold-digger? How is Gayle going to run this show when her primary business achievement was having a failed interior design company?
This story will keep local tongues wagging for a bit and I anticipate a few Rita Benson-LeBlanc costumes at various Mardi Gras parades over the next several weeks.
This was, however, a not totally unexpected turn of events as Rita (#2 exec in the organization) had previously been placed (by her grandfather) on a 3-month administrative leave. Per NBC Sports:
In 2012, Rita Benson LeBlanc was removed from the football business due to concerns about her management style, which caused her to have 30 different assistants in six years. In 2013, the NFL rejected a “poison pill” in coach Sean Payton’s new contract that allowed him to leave the team if Mickey Loomis no longer served as General Manager, based on the belief that Payton wanted Loomis to remain in place as a buffer between Payton and Rita Benson LeBlanc.
Oh Rita. That’s a new assistant every 2.4 months.
Can you imagine recruiting candidates for that gig? I’m quite sure it was initially fairly easy to get a candidate interested: “Hey Mary! How would you like to work for the Saints!?!!” “Oh Yes!!” (Mary had visions of running into Drew Brees in the hallway and sharing gossip at the water cooler with Reggie Bush).
But as the years went on and the revolving door of assistants swung wildly I’m sure it got harder and harder; New Orleans is a pretty small city after all. “Hey Mary! How would you like to work for the Saints!?!!” “Is this that job working for Rita? You must be joking; I’m not a masochist.”
(Over the years I’ve talked to and/or interviewed a good number of employees with the Saints organization; it’s a workplace like any other with some good and some bad. It’s certainly not a black & gold paradise.)
So as we wait for more details to emerge, I find it interesting that all stories, thus far, point to Rita’s leadership style as a key factor in these moves.
Not financial mismanagement; not the inability to negotiate and settle contracts. Nothing about her ineffectiveness to close business deals. (Although it was reported that she tended to regularly miss owner’s meetings and the like).
Imagine the relief the current assistant must feel. She may even make it past the 2.4 month mark.