The Chargers’ move from San Diego to Los Angeles plunged the family into more than $353 million worth of unpayable debts and could force an ownership change, according to a petition filed in the California court system and obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
The petition was filed by Dea Spanos Berberian, who serves a co-trustee of the family trust with Chargers owner Dean Spanos. It claims the only solution for the finances is to sell the NFL franchise owned by the family since 1984. Each of four Spanos siblings owns a 15 percent stake in the team and the family trust owns 36 percent, per the report.
The Chargers must pay a $650 million reallocation fee to the league, like the Rams did when they moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles and the Raiders when they moved from Oakland to Las Vegas. The Chargers and Rams share $5 billion SoFi Stadium, which opened last year and is set to host the next Super Bowl.
Since moving to Los Angeles, the Chargers, who spent 56 seasons in San Diego, have struggled to build a fan base and sell tickets compared to the Rams, who have prior roots in the city. Winning helps generate fan excitement, however, and the Chargers have one of the NFL’s bright young stars at quarterback in Justin Herbert.
But is the situation too dire? The Spanos family does not have a plan to pay $22 million it has pledged to charities, according to the report.
“Every day that passes increases the risks that the charitable beneficiaries and the Spanos family legacy will suffer irreparable financial and reputational damage,” the petition states.
The petition includes a November 2019 letter from Dean Spanos to his three siblings promising he will take steps toward selling the team by the end of the 2024 season, according to the report. Berberian says her brother’s “plan is hope.”
An interesting wrinkle in the petition, according to the report, is that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is interested in becoming an NFL owner and “the Chargers could be a perfect opportunity.”
But Dean Spanos, Alexis Spanos Ruhl and Michael Spanos are not budging.
“Our parents, Alex and Faye, wanted the Chargers to be part of the Spanos Family for generations to come,” the three siblings said in a joint statement. “For the three of us, the Chargers is one of our family’s most important legacies, just as it was for our parents. Unfortunately, our sister Dea seems to have a different and misguided personal agenda. If Dea no longer wishes to be part of this family legacy, the three of us stand ready to purchase her share of the franchise, as our agreements give us the right to do.”
The Chargers are not the only NFL franchise with ownership in question over a family squabble. The Broncos’ future with the Bowlen family could be decided later this year in a court trial.