New Orleans, LA

The richest person in New Orleans is giving away millions

Ash Jurberg

To kick off 2023, I have been writing about people and organizations giving back to the community.

Readers enjoy seeing uplifting, positive stories. So today, I wanted to write about a woman in Louisiana and the good she has done for the community.

Her name is Gayle Benson, and she is the wealthiest person in New Orleans. But the good she does with her wealth makes for a good story.

The richest person in Louisiana

Gayle Benson grew up in New Orleans and graduated from Martin Behrman High School in 1966.

After high school, she began working as a receptionist, but her passion lay in interior design, and she started a business on the side. Together with her husband, Thomas Bird, they bought, renovated, and sold over one hundred properties across New Orleans under Gayle Bird Interiors, Ltd.

She divorced Thomas Bird in 1987 after ten years of marriage and ran the business alone.

While Gayle was incredibly successful, her marriage to Tom Benson helped catapult Gayle into the billionaires club. Gayle met Tom Benson at the famous St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans and married in 2004.

Many New Orleans sports fans and readers will know Tom Benson's name.

He bought the NFL Franchise, the New Orleans Saints, in 1985 and the NBA franchise New Orleans Hornets, now known as the New Orleans Pelicans, in 2012.

Gayle became the owner of both New Orleans professional sports teams when Tom Benson passed away in March 2018.

This made her the first woman to become a majority shareholder in both an NFL and an NBA franchise. It has also made her a very wealthy woman- but thankfully she has been generous with her wealth.


While much of Gayle's wealth stemmed from her late husband Tom, Gayle forged her way in the business world through her very successful interior design business. She has also been a big supporter of charities.

"My wish is to scatter all the good and gifts that God and Tom have given me to this city and community." Gayle Benson

Gayle's charitable foundation has donated over $100 million to various organizations. These include

  • funding the construction of a stadium at the University of the Incarnate Word
  • contributing $7.5 million to the construction of a stadium at Tulane University
  • $5 million to the Jesuit High School of New Orleans
  • $3.5 million to Second Harvest Food Bank, which is affiliated with the Archdiocese of New Orleans
  • $25 million to the Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center at Ochsner
  • $5 million to the Ochsner Clinic Foundation
  • $10 million to Brother Martin High School
  • $1.5 million to the Xavier University of Louisiana

Plus, many, many more.

Outside of Tom and Gayle Benson's donations through their foundation, the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans make donations through the New Orleans Saints Gulf Coast Renewal Fund.

It is rumored that when Gaylen Benson eventually sells the two New Orleans sports teams, she will donate the proceeds to charities across New Orleans.

Your thoughts

What do you think of Benson's charitable efforts? What other organizations in New Orleans and Louisiana would you like to see Benson support?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments below and share this article with others so they can join the conversation.

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