Gayle Benson provides leadership for the New Orleans Pelicans and New Orleans Saints, succeeding her husband, Tom Benson, who passed away on March 15, 2018, after serving as the Owner of the Pelicans franchise since 2012 and the Saints since 1985. The New Orleans native is an accomplished business professional and philanthropist with strong ties to the local community and who is dedicated to contributing to the growth and enhancement of the Gulf South region.
After marrying in 2004, Mr. and Mrs. Benson worked together to build championship-level NBA and NFL organizations, housed in state-of-the-art facilities at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center, Smoothie King Center and Mercedes-Benz Superdome, while making a positive impact in the community away from the basketball court and football field as well.
Immediately upon Mr. and Mrs. Benson’s purchase of the former Hornets franchise from the NBA in 2012, construction began on a state-of-the-art basketball practice facility to house the entire organization together and the franchise would also be rebranded as the Pelicans. Through agreements with the State of Louisiana upon the purchase of the Pelicans, the Smoothie King Center has undergone a complete renovation since the 2012 purchase, featuring a new center-hung HD scoreboard, which debuted in 2015, along with several additional fan upgrades. Through this commitment, NBA All-Star Weekend was awarded to New Orleans in 2014 and 2017, making the city one of just six current NBA markets to host the mid-season event at least three times. Active in league affairs, Mrs. Benson, serves as a member of the NBA’s Labor Relations Committee and also was named the NBA Foundation Board of Directors on October 9. On the court, she oversaw a significant overhaul of the Pelicans organization in 2019 when she hired Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin. Through the support of these organizational improvements by Mrs. Benson, combined with New Orleans winning the NBA Draft Lottery and selecting the 2018-19 AP College Player of the Year in Duke forward Zion Williamson with the first overall pick and the 2019 acquisition of forward Brandon Ingram, a 2020 NBA All-Star and winner of the league’s Most Improved Player award, the Pelicans have established a solid foundation for the future.
With the Saints franchise under the guidance of the Bensons, the team has reached new heights since 2006, when they entrusted Executive-Vice President/General Manger Mickey Loomis to hire Sean Payton as head coach and sign unrestricted free agent quarterback Drew Brees. Since those moves, the franchise has reached its highest point of success, posting a 119-85 record over the last 12 years, featuring six playoff berths, four division titles, two NFC Championship appearances and the Super Bowl XLIV title. Off-the-field, the a completely renovated Mercedes-Benz Superdome has been sold-out on a season ticket basis for every campaign since 2006, with a waiting list of over 73,000 people and 122 consecutive sellouts. The club has also positioned itself as a leader in the community, assisting with the recovery from several natural disasters, while also working to enhance the region as a whole.
Community investment and giving back have been hallmarks of the Bensons’ ownership of the Pelicans and Saints, a tradition that will continue under Mrs. Benson’s stewardship as she will look to continue to enrich the New Orleans community through multiple initiatives, including philanthropic work in the health and wellness, education and arts sectors. As dedicated corporate citizens, the Pelicans and Saints annually put millions of dollars back into the community in financial supports, in-kind donation, charitable appearances and donations of goods and services.
Commitment to the health and wellness of the local community are have been at the forefront through multiple gifts that established and upgraded the Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center on the main campus of Ochsner Medical Center, the area’s leading health service network of hospitals and clinics. In addition to serving on the Ochsner board, Mrs. Benson has led 100-plus volunteer committee members in hosting the Moonlight and Miracles event the last four years-the organization’s annual gala to benefit the Ochsner Cancer institute. The event has raised over six million dollars annually since its conception to benefit cancer patients in the region.
Supporting the efforts of former Saints safety Steve Gleason and his Team Gleason organization, which helps provide people with ALS and other debilitating conditions an environment where they can live vital and productive lives with meaningful freedom and independence, Mr. and Mrs. Benson committed five million dollars to the Team Gleason House for Innovative Living at the New Orleans St. Margaret’s facility in 2014.
Mrs. Benson is a committed supporter of the area’s educational institutions on all levels, serving on the boards of St. Mary’s Dominican High School, Archbishop Hannan High School, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and Tulane University. Mrs. Benson and her late husband also supported numerous local high schools and universities with gifts, including Dominican, Brother Martin High School (formerly St. Aloysius, Tom Benson’s alma mater), Jesuit High School, Stuart Hall School, Loyola University New Orleans, Tulane and Xavier University of Louisiana.
In 2012, the Bensons made two significant gifts to enhance local educational institutions. They established the Brother Nicholas, S.C. Building Endowment to support Brother Martin. They also donated $7.5 million towards the construction of an on-campus football stadium at Tulane, appropriately named “Benson Field”.
A member of the Board of Trustees for the New Orleans Museum of Art, Mrs. Benson served as one of the chairs for NOMA’s Odyssey Ball in 2014, as the event raised over $700,000 – the most in the gala’s history and continues to be a major supporter of the annual event. The funds raised help ensure the museum’s ability to present world-class exhibitions, public programs, and educational initiatives. She also has been active in supporting NOMA project “Art for Art’s Sake”, an annual tradition that promotes art in the City of New Orleans.
In addition to serving on the board of several local educational institutions and NOMA, Mrs. Benson also is a member of the Audubon Commission, which oversees the Audubon Nature Institute and serves on the Mayor Transition Committee of New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell with Dr. Norman Francis and Walter Isaacson.
A long-time advocate of faith-based causes and spirituality, Mrs. Benson has been a longtime trusted and valued member of the local Catholic community. She’s served on Archbishop’s Community Appeal campaigns for four different Archbishops over the course of the past 30 years. She has worked tirelessly with the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Catholic Charities organization and its umbrella agencies that feature nearly 50 programs and three affiliated ministries that deliver health and human services to the poor and vulnerable in the eight civil parishes which the Archdiocese serves, as well as food and nutrition services statewide. Mrs. Benson has also worked closely with St. Louis Cathedral’s Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program, as well as with the same program at the Holy Name of Jesus Parish. Mrs. Benson’s support of the Church has been recognized on numerous occasions. She has received the Medal of the Order of St. Louis Award for her dedication to the Church. In 2010, she became an Honorary Oblate of Mary Immaculate. In 2012, Mr. and Mrs. Benson received from Pope Benedict XVI the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award-for outstanding service to the Church and the Pontiff, the highest Papal award granted to a lay person.
Mrs. Benson began her professional career in 1968 as a manager for noted New York-based costume jeweler Celebrity Jewelry, overseeing and managing the daily operation of over 40 sales associates. She then branched out into real estate development which allowed her to successfully integrate her passion for interior design with property management. Her first real estate transaction occurred in 1978 when she purchased a home in New Orleans’s Irish Channel and then sold the property eight months later. She would go on to purchase, manage and eventually sell several more properties, primarily in the city’s Uptown district.
In 1975, Mrs. Benson began a 30-year career in the design industry under a business she called Gayle Bird interiors, a business where she achieved tremendous success. Throughout the course of her career she was recognized with numerous professional awards and served as an inaugural member on the Louisiana State Board of Licensing for four years. She directed numerous major design efforts with her clients, including the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, several of the city’s most prestigious hotels, local supermarket chains and automobile dealerships.
In 2000, Mrs. Benson worked with the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on renovations to the iconic New Orleans landmark’s third and fourth level public spaces, in addition to renovations on select suites. She also owned and developed a commercial real estate building on the corner of Laura and Octavia Streets, a women’s clothing private enterprise called “Toujours la Ligne” and a designer’s showroom called “Designers Resource” which served as a wholesale location for designers and architects seeking to purchase fabric, wall coverings and accessories. The Men of Fashion Committee recognized Mrs. Benson during her career as one of the “Top Ten Best Dressed Women in New Orleans”.
Mr. and Mrs. Benson first met at mass in St. Louis Cathedral one Monday morning in 2004, a service where she had read a passage. Shortly after, he asked her to attend a New Orleans VooDoo arena football game with him that spring. After they dated for several months, the couple became engaged on September 23, 2004 and were married on October 29. They were married for 13 years and five months when he passed away.
In addition to her ownership of the Pelicans and Saints, Mrs. Benson established GMB Racing Stables in 2014 with an initial purchase of seven colts and hiring three veteran trainers, all with Louisiana ties. In 2016, two of the thoroughbreds, Mo Tom ad Tom’s Ready participated in the Kentucky Derby. Her Lone Sailor horse is slated to run in the 2018 Kentucky Derby. She also serves as the Owner of three local automotive dealerships, Best Chevrolet, Cadillac of New Orleans and Mercedes-Benz of New Orleans and the Dixie Beer brand, which Mr. and Mrs. Benson purchased in 2017.
Mrs. Benson was born in New Orleans and grew up in Old Algiers. She began her education in Catholic schools and in 1966 graduated from Martin Behrman High School.
Dennis Lauscha, who was named president of the Pelicans in 2012, oversees the club’s financial operations, government affairs, its marketing, ticket and suite sales, legal, stadium, community affairs, human resources, information technology and facilities departments. He has also has served as president of the New Orleans Saints since 2012. He is a representative for both clubs at NFL and NBA Owner’s Meetings.
Lauscha first joined the Saints as treasurer in 1998 and later earned the additional titles of vice president, senior vice president and executive vice president. In addition to his duties with the Saints and Pelicans, the New Orleans native maintains multiple roles within other holdings of Gayle Benson.
Lauscha’s collaborative style, financial acumen and long-term view has played a key role as a member of a contingent that has negotiated agreements for both the Saints and Pelicans with the state of Louisiana that has resulted in long-term lease agreements, continuous improvements to their playing and practice facilities, revitalization of the areas around them and generated revenue for the state without any new taxes for citizens.
In 2009, Lauscha helped negotiate the partnership with the Louisiana Governor that continues the Saints’ commitment to the state through 2025. The deal included Mr. Benson purchasing and redeveloping the former New Orleans Centre, which has been transformed into Champions Square and the Benson Tower property adjacent to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, with the stadium itself undergoing extensive renovations and improvements. Since playing a key role in Mr. Benson’s purchase of the Pelicans in 2012, Lauscha has helped broker agreements with the state to upgrade the team’s playing and practice facilities. Following successful negotiations, the Pelicans are committed to the state through 2024 and the Smoothie King Center has undergone significant renovations and improvements.
In 2015, Lauscha helped negotiate an agreement with the state that resulted in $40 million in enhancements for fans of both clubs. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome debuted new state-of-the-art video boards in 2016 in addition to renovated suites and other fan amenities, while a new center-hung HD video scoreboard was installed in the Smoothie King Center for the 2015-16 Pelicans season. Lauscha has also played a key role in finalizing 2011 and 2014 ground-breaking naming rights and sponsorship agreements for both teams’ playing facilities with Mercedes-Benz USA and Smoothie King.
Lauscha was instrumental in the 2003 expansion of the Saints training facility. He later oversaw a renovation and expansion of the facilities and administrative offices for the Saints and Pelicans from 2012-13, while directing the construction of a basketball practice facility. The clubs are now housed on the same site, featuring some of the top facilities in professional sports. In July of 2017, Lauscha played a key role in the facilitation of a multi-year naming rights agreement for the entire campus on Airline Drive, renaming it the Ochsner Sports Performance Center.
Lauscha is committed to help attract major sporting events to New Orleans. He is a key member of the team that actively pursues future NBA All-Star Games, Super Bowls and NCAA Basketball Final Four Championships for New Orleans – and was instrumental in landing Super Bowl XLVII. Following Mr. Benson’s 2012 purchase of the Pelicans, the city has hosted NBA All-Star Games in 2014 and 2017.
Active throughout both sports and the community, Lauscha currently serves as a member of the Business Council of New Orleans, the Catholic Foundation Board of Directors and the Audubon Nature Institute Board. Lauscha has completed terms as board president of the Preservation Resource Center, president of the regional chapter of the Boy Scouts of America and as a member of the Super Bowl XLVII Host Committee, the NBA All-Star Game Host Committee, the NCAA Final Four Host Committee, the NBA’s Team Advisory Council of Presidents, the NFL’s Ticketing Strategy Working Group, the NBA’s Team CBA Advisory Committee, the Stuart Hall School Board of Trustees, the New Orleans Museum of Art Board, the New Orleans Mayor’s Transition Subcommittee and the Loyola University New Orleans School of Business Visiting Committee.
His dealings with the teams, state officials and local organizations have provided an opportunity for community involvement. His professional and charitable work was recognized by New Orleans CityBusiness, when Lauscha was selected as one of the 40 Most Influential Members of the Community. The honor is bestowed on those who are laying the groundwork for a better city. In 2010, he was named the Alumnus of the Year by Loyola’s College of Business and was named to the 2010 Class of Role Models by the Young Leadership Council. He was honored by the Allstate Sugar Bowl Chapter of the National Football Foundation/College Football Hall of Fame with its 2014 Distinguished American Award. He was also awarded the Order of West Range by Pi Kappa Alpha. In 2015, Lauscha gave the commencement address to the graduates of the University of New Orleans.
After graduating from Jesuit High School, Lauscha graduated from the University of Alabama with a bachelor’s degree in business. He has also received a master’s of business administration from Loyola University in New Orleans and is a licensed Certified Public Accountant. He has also completed the NFL Managers Program at Stanford University's Executive Education Graduate School of Business. Prior to joining the Saints, Lauscha worked as the club's auditor for four years while working for a national accounting firm.
David GriffinExecutive Vice President of Basketball Operations
David Griffin enters his first season with the New Orleans Pelicans after being named the team’s Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations on April 17, 2019. Prior to joining the Pelicans, Griffin served as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Vice President of Basketball Operations from 2010-14 and General Manager from 2014-17. Under his guidance, the Cavaliers won 53 games in the 2014-15 season and reached their first of three consecutive trips to the NBA Finals, with Griffin finishing second in NBA Basketball Executive of the Year voting. The following season, Griffin led the Cavaliers to a 57-win season – the third highest total in franchise history – and Cleveland went on to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals, bringing the franchise its first championship and the city of Cleveland their first professional title in 52 years.
Prior to joining the Cavaliers, Griffin spent 17 seasons with the Suns, the last three as the club’s senior vice president of basketball operations after being named to the position in June 2007. After originally joining the Suns basketball communications department in 1993 as an intern, Griffin saw his responsibilities steadily grow due to his passion, work ethic and analytical expertise.
After aiding the club’s media relations efforts for four seasons, Griffin moved to the basketball operations side in 1997, with a primary focus on statistical analysis, draft and free agency information, video preparation and scouting reports. Along the way, Griffin held the titles of assistant general manager of player personnel, director of player personnel, assistant director of player personnel and basketball operations assistant with the Suns.
A native of Phoenix, Arizona, Griffin graduated from Arizona State University in 1995 with a degree in Political Science.
Trajan LangdonGeneral Manager
Trajan Langdon was named the General Manager of the New Orleans Pelicans on May 19, 2019, reporting directly to Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, David Griffin. Prior to joining the Pelicans, Langdon served at the assistant general manager for the Brooklyn Nets since March 8, 2016. Langdon, who also served as general manager of the Brooklyn Nets’ NBA G League affiliate – the Long Island Nets – was named the 2018-19 NBA G League Basketball Executive of the Year after Long Island tied for the NBA G League’s best record (34-16), earning the franchise’s first postseason berth as the No. 1 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, and advanced to the 2019 NBA G League Finals.
Langdon joined the Nets after having served as the director of player administration and basketball operations for the Cleveland Cavaliers since September, 2015. While with the Cavaliers, Langdon worked closely with the team’s general manager on various basketball and front office matters, with their community relations team on player programs, and was responsible for pro player personnel reporting for opponents, college and NBA Development League scouting. Langdon began his front office career with the San Antonio Spurs, serving as a pro scout from 2012-15, and was a member of the team’s front office during their 2013-14 championship season.
A first round pick (11th overall) of the Cavaliers in 1999, Langdon played three seasons with Cleveland, where he totaled 119 games, and became the first Alaskan to play in the NBA. Following his stint in the NBA, Langdon played nine seasons overseas in Russia, Turkey and Italy. His best years came with CSKA Moscow, where he was a two-time Euroleague champion (2006, 2008), Euroleague Final Four MVP (2008), two-time All-Euroleague First Team selection (2007, 2008) and All-Euroleague Second Team selection (2006). He was also named to the Euroleague 2001-10 All-Decade Team.
A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Langdon played collegiately at Duke, where he left as the school’s all-time leader in three-point field goals made and was a First-Team All-ACC selection (1997-99) and consensus Second-Team All-American (1999). After graduating from Duke with degrees in mathematics and history, he played for the USA Basketball National Team in the 1998 FIBA World Championship, winning the bronze medal.
Trajan and his wife, Tatiana, have three children, a daughter, Anya, and two sons, Tayden and Troy.