Benson passed away peacefully at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans with his wife at his side, the team announced in a statement.
"Tom Benson's contributions to New Orleans and the National Football League were legendary," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "He purchased a team that never had a winning season; by the third year of his ownership, the Saints were in the playoffs. Tom kept the Saints together through the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, and his decision to bring the team back to New Orleans gave the entire region hope and confidence they would recover. The Saints rewarded their fans with tremendous football and a Super Bowl championship."
The owner of the Saints since 1985, Benson had been hospitalized with the flu since Feb. 16. Although the team reported Benson's condition was improving in early March, he took a downturn recently, the Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported.
Benson, who also owns the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans, helped to revive a Saints franchise that had never had a winning season at the time of his purchase.
New Orleans went 12-3 in 1987 -- its first winning season since its inception in 1967 -- and reached the postseason for the first time.
Under his ownership, the Saints went to the postseason 11 times, earned six division titles and won Super Bowl XLIV following the 2009 season -- four years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina that forced the team to play away from its home stadium for one season.
"This team took the hopes and the dreams of a shattered city and placed them squarely on its shoulders," President Barack Obama said when the Saints visited the White House after winning the Super Bowl. "And so these guys became more than leaders in the locker room -- they became leaders of an entire region."
Pro Football Hall of Fame President & CEO David Baker provided a statement on Benson, which read: "I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Tom Benson. I have had the great fortune of knowing Mr. Benson for decades. He possessed a deep passion for the game and was committed to its growth. He believed strongly in promoting the game and its positive values to generations of fans. His legacy will live forever in Canton, Ohio through his generosity and support that helped launch a vision for the future by celebrating this great game we love."