FOR NEARLY A CENTURY, Dixie Beer was brewed in New Orleans, its light lager a mainstay in Crescent City bars. But Hurricane Katrina forced the brewery to move its operations to Wisconsin and Tennessee, and the beer started fading from prominence on Big Easy taps. Dixie’s resurrection is under way, though, after Gayle Benson, 71, purchased the brand last year with her husband, Tom—who died this March—and announced plans to bring it back to New Orleans and set up shop in an 80,000-squarefoot brewery. Benson intends to spend a reported $30 million to $40 million on Dixie’s rebirth.
Benson owns several other local institutions, including the NFL’S New Orleans Saints and the NBA’S New Orleans Pelicans. She inherited the teams from her husband after a multiyear lawsuit pitting her against other family members. Renee, Tom’s daughter from a previous marriage, sued her father in 2015 after he altered his succession plans for the two teams. Renee and other members of the clan claimed that Gayle exerted “undue influence” on an ailing Tom’s decision. (That case was dismissed.) The family ultimately reached a confidential settlement about a year before Tom’s death.
POPULATION:4.7 MILLION2017 GROSS STATE PRODUCT: $246.3 BILLION (–0.2% GROWTH) GSP PER CAPITA:$52,571(RANKS NO. 31 NATIONWIDE) NUMBER OF BILLIONAIRES:RICHEST:GAYLE BENSON$2.7 BILLION