Millions in debt. Inability to pay charitable obligations. Breaches of fiduciary duty. Aggressive misogyny. A private jet to get a haircut.
It’s all alleged in a lawsuit filed this week against Dean Spanos that could tip the balance of power in the Spanos family and, almost certainly, usher in the sale of the Chargers from the National Football League.
The case was filed this week in San Joaquin County Super Court by Dea Spanos Berberian, Dean’s sister. Berberian tries to argue that Dean has put the family trust in such dire financial straits that he should be removed as co-trustee, giving him sole control of the trust.
Dean, Dea and their siblings Michael and Alexis all own a 15% stake in the franchise. The trust controls 36%. If Berberian is able to remove Dean, she would effectively be in charge of 51% ownership of the Chargers. Considering the fact that Berberian has already filed a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court asking that the trust and team be put up for sale, it stands to reason that it would put the team up for sale.
So why would she take this step? According to her, it is necessary to reverse years of financial mismanagement by Dean, Michael and Steve Cohen (Executive Vice President of The Spanos Corporation). The lawsuit claims the trust is, as of December 31, 2021, $358 million in debt and losing $11 million annually. Dea says her brother used the trust to pay off his debts, many of them for his own personal gain and at the expense of the rest of the family. An example from the trial:
“Dean continues to use trust assets as collateral, draws on lines of
credit and refuses to pay dividends for its own benefit and in violation of its fiduciary duties. For example, despite the fact that TSC (The Spanos Corporation) did little or no business in Las Vegas for decades, Dean insisted on keeping a TSC office there so he could cancel private flights to take advantage of his second home and have his hair done. cut, since Las Vegas is where Dean’s barber is based.
The lawsuit alleges that while Dean and Dea are co-trustees, Michael misrepresented himself as trustee and the brothers attempted to exclude their sister from the trust’s decision-making process because that Dean and Michael “…deeply believe that regardless of their parents’ intentions and wishes, men are in charge and women should be silent.
Berberian also alleges the trust is in such poor shape that it is unable to repay $18 million in pledges to several universities, hospitals and religious organizations. Berberian likely sees selling the NFL team as the best way to get the family trust out of financial turmoil.
The families of Dean, Michael and Alexis released a joint statement in response to the lawsuit:
“It is unfortunate that our sister Dea, who clearly has no interest in continuing to participate in family affairs, has resorted to false accusations and provocation in an attempt to impose her will on the rest of the family. The three of us and our children, who represent over 75% of the family and its business ownership, are united in supporting the wishes of our parents and grandparents, including for continued ownership and operation. Chargers.”
The NFL declined to comment on the lawsuit.
One of the lawyers working with Berberian is Adam Streisand, who helped Jeannie Buss gain control of the Lakers and represented Steve Ballmer to successfully force Donald Sterling to sell the Clippers.
Now the question most Chargers fans will be asking is, of course, could this lead to the Bolts returning to San Diego? The Chargers are valued by Forbes at $2.6 billion, but with the Denver Broncos reportedly on the verge of selling for $4.6 billion, the Chargers would likely hit over $3 billion.
If an owner wants to bring the team back to America’s Greatest City, they’ll either have to add Snapdragon Stadium, expand it to around 55,000, or find a place to build a new stadium. That’s another $500 million minimum, plus a new training facility for a few hundred million. Then there are the relocation costs, which amounted to $650 million for the Bolts to go to Los Angeles. If the NFL is unwilling to waive or at least significantly reduce these fees, a new owner would be looking at $4.5 billion to $5 billion to put the Chargers back where they belong.