Chargers co-owner wants team sold to relieve debt in NFL family feud
1st April 2021

The sister of Los Angeles Chargers chairman Dean Spanos is trying force the sale of the team because of mounting debt and said team ownership can’t afford to keep borrowing money and “hope” while Spanos speculates further on a football team, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.

Dea Spanos Berberian is one of four Spanos siblings who control the Spanos Family Trust, which in turn owns 36% of the franchise. Each sibling owns an additional 15% of the franchise, giving the family nearly 100% ownership.

The suit said the trust’s debts and expenses exceed $353 million and that the trust has “virtually no income and no liquidity.”  It also said the trust is liable for over $22 million pledged to charities.

“The Trust’s Interest in the Chargers must be sold so that debts can be discharged, the hemorrhaging can stop, the speculation and risk can be eliminated, and the beneficiaries can actually enjoy the benefit of their inheritance as the settlors intended,” said Berberian’s petition, obtained Thursday by USA TODAY Sports.

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A general view as the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers play in an empty stadium during the first quarter at SoFi Stadium. (Photo: Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY Sports)

The settlors are the Spanos' deceased parents, Faye and Alex, who bought the Chargers in 1984 when the franchise was in San Diego.

The lawsuit drew a swift response from the other siblings Thursday.

“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,” they said in a statement. “In the meanwhile, the operations of the Chargers will be entirely unaffected by this matter, which relates only to the 36 percent share of the team that was owned by our parents.”

The Chargers relocated to Los Angeles in 2017 after 56 years in San Diego. They share the $5 billion SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., with the Los Angeles Rams, whose owner, Stan Kroenke, provided the funding for it. 

In a November 2019 letter from Dean Spanos attached to the suit, the controlling owner addressed his other sibling co-owners and stated he agreed to retain an investment banking firm to market the sale of the Chargers. 

The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court,  says he has resisted a sale.

"Dean refuses to consider a sale of the Trust’s Interest of the Chargers, insisting that the Co-Trustees continue to borrow more and more, and to force the charities and the beneficiaries to wait for years and to `hope' while Dean speculates further on a football team," the suit states. "Dean has failed to present any plan to address the Trust’s bleak financial picture, because there is no other plan than the one urged by Petitioner. Dean simply refuses to discuss it. When Petitioner suggested they retain an independent firm to assess the situation and develop a plan, Dean refused. His plan is hope."

The other siblings' right of first refusal could complicate Berberian's attempt to have the majority of the ownership shares sold. Even if she succeeds in getting the trust's 36% stake sold, her other 15% stake could be purchased by her siblings under such a right of first refusal. 

In the suit, she still requests that the court "instruct the Co-Trustees to exercise their `come along' rights in order to compel the marketing and ultimate sale of 97% of the Team."

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: [email protected]

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