Tom Benson, Longtime New Orleans Saints Owner, Dies at 90

Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints football team, passed away on Thursday at the Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson, Louisiana according to a statement from Saints' official website.

Benson had reportedly been battling a case of the flu and had been hospitalized back on Feb. 16.

Benson was born on July 12, 1927 in New Orleans and attended Loyola University New Orleans prior to enlisting in the U.S. Navy to serve in World War II.

Benson worked his way up in the business world as a Chevrolet dealership manager, but moved to banking in 1972 and opened Benson Financial World.

He purchased the New Orleans Saints in 1985 after learning that the team's current ownership was considering moving the franchise. The Saints were founded back in 1966 by John W. Mecom Jr, David Dixon and the city of New Orleans. When Benson purchased them, the team had only managed a .500 record twice, but by 1987 the team had its first winning season in franchise history and first playoff appearance with a 12-3 record.

The team has gone on to earn 11 playoff berths and six division championships under Benson's tenure. In 2010, led by franchise quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints won their first Super Bowl championship by defeating Indianapolis 31-17 at Super Bowl XLIV.

In 2012 Benson purchased the New Orleans Hornets NBA franchise, renaming it the New Orleans Pelicans.

Players and coaches from both team paid their respects to Benson via social media on Thursday once the news broke.

"I will forever be indebted to Mr. Tom Benson for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to be a member of the Saints organization and the New Orleans community," Brees wrote, captioning a photo of himself holding up a Saints jersey with Benson. "I will miss his presence, leadership, and grandfatherly advice. We know you will continue to watch over us all with that umbrella in your hand."

"Rest In Peace Mr B," Saints coach Sean Payton wrote. "Thank You for your Leadership and all that gave to our city. Thank You for believing in me."

"Tom Benson gave me the opportunity to live my childhood dream, and to do it in the beautiful city of New Orleans was a blessing," former wide receiver Donte Stallworth tweeted. "Even after I was traded he kept in touch, and years later would check in on me and offer help during a difficult time. I am forever grateful!!"

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"RIP Mr. Benson you will be missed," former Saints running back and first-round draft pick Reggie Bush tweeted.

Saints fans gathered in outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Thursday night and paid tribute to Benson.