Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson filed a response Tuesday (Jan. 27) to a lawsuit by his estranged relatives, saying granddaughter Rita Benson LeBlanc and other relatives he was grooming to run his empire "never rose to the task."

Without stating why, specifically, Benson's response said he had good reasons when he recently decided that he will turn over controlling interests in his sports franchises to his wife of 10 years, rather than sticking to his longtime plan to leave his empire to his daughter, Renee Benson and two grandchildren.

The assertion comes in response to the lawsuit filed by his jilted heirs, who are seeking to have the 87-year-old billionaire declared incompetent to control trust funds that hold the bulk of his fortune. Benson's response asks that the lawsuit be dismissed , and a request for a medical evaluation of the billionaire should be denied.

"For years, Mr. Benson attempted to involve each of the petitioners in various aspects of his business interests and to groom them into the type of business persons that he could have confidence in to own and/or run those business interests when he died," Benson's lawyers wrote.

"Unfortunately, the petitioners never rose to the task.

"After years of concern and misgivings about petitioners' abilities... Mr. Benson made the deliberate, reasoned, and difficult decision to change course and name as his successor his loving wife, Gayle Benson," said the document, filed Tuesday in Orleans Parish District Civil Court.

Randy Smith, the attorney representing Renee Benson and her children, did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

The filing is the latest volley in a legal battle for control of Louisiana's two major professional sports franchises.