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  • Sat., Aug. 23, 2014 7:00PM CDT Live New Orleans Saints at Indianapolis Colts The New Orleans Saints take on the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
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Rita Benson LeBlanc
Owner/Vice Chairman of the Board

As Owner/Vice Chairman of the Board of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, Rita Benson LeBlanc has served as a catalyst for New Orleans distinguishing itself as one of the most unique host cities in the world for major events. 

LeBlanc is the teams’ representative for the NFL and NBA Ownership meetings and has represented the Saints since 1997 at NFL Ownership meetings, where she chairs the Employee Benefits committee and serves on the International Owner committee. LeBlanc’s concentration is focused on the overall brand, financial and civic impact of the Saints and Pelicans in New Orleans, regionally and on an international level. Through relationships and collaborations with community partners, LeBlanc has led the organizations as host of multiple Super Bowl games, as well as in landing the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend.

As Owner/Vice Chairman of the Board of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, Rita Benson LeBlanc has served as a catalyst for New Orleans distinguishing itself as one of the most unique host cities in the world for major events.

LeBlanc is the teams’ representative for the NFL and NBA Ownership meetings and has represented the Saints since 1997 at NFL Ownership meetings, where she chairs the Employee Benefits committee and serves on the International Owner committee. LeBlanc’s concentration is focused on the overall brand, financial and civic impact of the Saints and Pelicans in New Orleans, regionally and on an international level. Through relationships and collaborations with community partners, LeBlanc has led the organizations as host of multiple Super Bowl games, as well as in landing the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend.

As a member of Super Bowl XLVII’s New Orleans Host Committee, LeBlanc worked closely with the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation to execute the week’s festivities. Super Bowl XLVII produced a $480 million net impact for the region as it welcomed over 100,000 football fans and a record-breaking 5,200 media professionals to the city. Throughout the weekend, LeBlanc and Saints players participated in over 30 community service events, including the NFL’s Super Saturday of Service, NFL Play 60 events and green initiatives highlighted by the planting of 7,000 trees around the city.

In addition to taking an active leadership role in New Orleans’ opportunities as a host city, LeBlanc has also worked to recruit new businesses and expand economic development by serving on the boards of the Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region, Greater New Orleans Inc. and the New Orleans Business Alliance. She previously served on New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Economic Development Task Force. LeBlanc is actively involved in hosting site selection groups to explore growth in the greater New Orleans region and the state of Louisiana to promote multi-sector growth to the overall state economy.

Upon purchasing the city’s NBA franchise, LeBlanc played a key role in the development of the new brand identity, logos and color scheme for the re-named New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelican is more than a nickname for the franchise, as it represents the culture and resolve of the Gulf Coast region while also symbolizing Louisiana’s most pressing initiative of coastal restoration and wildlife conservation.

After overseeing the Saints’ sales and marketing efforts, community affairs, youth programs initiatives, game day entertainment and stadium operations for seven years, in 2012, LeBlanc’s duties expanded to include management for Zelia LLC, which includes properties such as Benson Tower, Champions Square and various interests.  She also works with her mother and brother overseeing other ventures in automotive, real estate, banking and multi-media platforms, including FOX 8 (WVUE). LeBlanc led the renovation of Benson Tower, a 26-story building with over 480,000 square feet of office space, with the vision of utilizing energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly materials. Following completion, the property became the first high-rise building in New Orleans to be awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) status.

In 2009, the Benson family displayed their unwavering commitment to the future success of the franchise and region through a partnership with the State of Louisiana that continued the club’s commitment to the state through 2025. As a result of the agreement, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome underwent extensive renovations and upgrades to make it a world-class facility for Saints fans and visitors. Following the debut of the renovations in 2011, the club reached a ten-year agreement with Mercedes-Benz USA to rename the facility the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The team’s renovated stadium, combined with its recently renovated and expanded team headquarters in Metairie, are both among the finest facilities in professional sports.

Further leading the rejuvenation of the city’s Poydras Corridor and CBD is the redevelopment of a former mall into Champions Square, a unique sports and entertainment complex adjacent to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Champions Square, a partnership between the State of Louisiana and Zelia LLC, has been instrumental in helping secure premier sporting events for New Orleans since its debut.  LeBlanc also serves on the Board of Directors for the Louisiana Media Company, which includes WVUE FOX-8, the only locally-owned television station in New Orleans. In addition, she was recently appointed to serve on the board of directors for the Louisiana Film and Entertainment Association, an organization that was created to promote and protect the entertainment
industry in the State of Louisiana.

LeBlanc has been a driving force behind the club’s success, both on and off the field. In 2006, the team achieved its first full season ticket sellout prior to the start of the season. Since then, all 71 games played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome have been filled on a season ticket basis. This success, fueled by innovative restructuring of ticket prices and categories, has resulted in a season ticket waiting list of over 73,000 fans. In addition, every luxury suite has been leased since 2008 while Saints merchandise has consistently been one of the top selling lines in the NFL. On the field, the Saints have compiled a 74-46 overall record since 2006, appeared in the playoffs four times and won Super Bowl XLIV.

Her leadership role with the franchise and in the local community has been evident, as she’s played a critical role in helping build the Saints into a championship franchise and one that was voted by ESPN The Magazine in 2010 as “the best organization in professional sports.” 

LeBlanc has also been recognized for her standing in the sports industry by Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal's "40 Under 40" three times (2007, 2008 and 2011), honoring the 40 most influential sports executives under the age of 40, recently being named to the “40 Under 40” Hall of Fame. In 2008, she was honored for her leadership of the Saints during and after Katrina and the organization’s rise to national and international prominence as one of three selected by vote for W.I.S.E’s (Women in Sports and Events) “Women of the Year” and also was awarded the inaugural “Changing Louisiana Award” by then-Louisiana Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu for her volunteerism and social entrepreneurship on behalf of the state.

Fostering the rejuvenated spirit of the city of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region, LeBlanc implements collaboration not only on the Saints’ and Pelicans’ behalf but also on a multitude of civic, cultural and philanthropic levels through her passion for the city she calls home. She was a key figure behind an initiative in 2010, in which the club raffled off a Super Bowl XLIV ring to raise over $1.5 million, which was distributed to those most affected by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Following Hurricane Isaac in September of 2012, LeBlanc led both organizations in fundraising $25,000 each to local chapters of the Second Harvest Food Bank and Catholic Charities.

LeBlanc oversees more than $7 million in annual charitable contributions, goods and services donated by the Saints to serve New Orleans and the entire region. Serving the needs of a community devastated by Hurricane Katrina has been a priority. In the immediate days following the storm, LeBlanc helped establish the Saints Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund, which raised over $1 million to assist the citizens of the Gulf South. Over 5,000 charities, schools, churches, foundations and festivals receive in-kind donations from the club annually.

Another longstanding part of the club’s community initiatives has been with one of the NFL’s most comprehensive commitments to youth football. LeBlanc’s close working relationship with the league office has proved to be beneficial in securing league grants and programs that benefit Gulf South youth and charitable initiatives. Since 2006, the Saints have distributed over $2 million dollars to high school and youth football organizations.

A graduate of Texas A&M University with a B.S. in Agribusiness, LeBlanc also received a certificate in International Business from the Lowry Mays School of Business. She attended Stanford University’s Executive Education Graduate School of Business in 2004 as part of the NFL’s Managers Program’s inaugural class, and, in 2013, earned a certificate in the Global Business of Sports from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

In her spare time, LeBlanc has displayed her adventurous spirit by recently rappelling down the 26-story Benson Tower for the Special Olympics.