Millions in debt. Inability to pay off 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 National Football League’s Chargers.
The filing was made this week in San Joaquin County Super Court by Dea Spanos Berberian, Dean’s sister. Berberian is trying to make the case that Dean has put the family trust in such deep financial trouble that he should be removed as co-trustee, giving her lone control of the trust.
Dean, Dea and their siblings Michael and Alexis all have a 15% ownership stake in the franchise. The trust controls 36%. If Berberian is able to remove Dean she would effectively be in charge of 51% of the Chargers ownership. Considering the fact Berberian has already filed a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court asking that the trust and the team be put up for sale it stands to reason that she would put the team up for sale.
So, why would she take this step? In her estimation it’s necessary to overturn years of financial mismanagement by Dean, Michael, and Steve Cohen (executive vice president of The Spanos Corporation). The suit claims the trust is, as of December 31, 2021, $358 million in debt and losing $11 million annually. Dea says her brother has been using the trust to pay against debts, many of them for his own personal gain and the detriment of the rest of the family. One example, taken from the lawsuit:
“Dean continues to use Trust assets as collateral, draw on the Trust’s lines of
credit, and refuses to pay dividends for his own personal benefit and in breach of his fiduciary duties. For example, despite the fact that TSC (The Spanos Corporation) conducted little to no business in Las Vegas for decades, Dean insisted on keeping a TSC office there so that he could write-off private flights to enjoy his second home and get his hair cut, since Las Vegas is where Dean’s barber is based.”
The suit alleges, while Dean and Dea are the co-trustees, Michael has been misrepresenting himself as a trustee and the brothers have attempted to freeze their sister out of the trust’s decision-making process because Dean and Michael “… believe to their cores that, regardless of what their parents intended and their wills specified, men are in charge and women should shut up.”
Berberian also alleges the trust is in such bad shape it’s unable to make good on $18 million in charitable pledges to multiple universities, hospitals, and religious organizations. Berberian likely sees the sale of the NFL team as the best way to pull the family trust out of financial turmoil.
The families of Dean, Michael, and Alexis released a joint statement responding to the lawsuit:
"It is unfortunate that our sister Dea, who clearly has no interest in continuing to participate in the family's businesses, has resorted to leveling false and provocative charges in an attempt to impose her will on the rest of the family. The three of us and our children, representing more than 75% of the family and its ownership of its businesses, stand united in support of our parents' and grandparents' wishes, including as to the continued ownership and operation of the Chargers."
The NFL declined to comment on the lawsuit.
One of the attorneys working with Berberian is Adam Streisand, who helped Jeannie Buss take control of the Lakers and represented Steve Ballmer successfully force Donald Sterling to sell the Clippers.
Now, the question most Chargers fans will have is, of course, could this result in the Bolts moving back to San Diego? The Chargers are estimated by Forbes to be worth $2.6 billion, but since the Denver Broncos are reportedly about to sell for $4.6 billion the Chargers would likely go for closer to $3 billion.
If an owner wants to move the team back to America’s Finest City they’d have to either add on to Snapdragon Stadium, expanding it to around 55,000 seats, or find a place to build a new stadium. That’s another $500 million minimum, along with a new practice facility for a few hundred million. Then there’s the relocation fee, which was $650 million for the Bolts to go to L.A. If the NFL is not willing to waive or at least drastically reduce that fee a new owner would be looking at $4.5 billion to $5 billion to put the Chargers back where they belong.