After the Broncos’ record $4.65 billion sale to the Walton-Penner family, one of Denver’s AFC West rivals, the Chargers, could be next on the list of NFL franchises to be sold. That’s mostly because of a longstanding legal dispute that continued this week, when the sister of current Chargers owner Dean Spanos filed a lawsuit accusing her brother of “misogynistic” and “financially ruinous” business practices, arguing that the Spanos family has no choice but to sell the team in order to pay off its debts.
Dea Spanos Berberian filed the suit Thursday in San Joaquin County Superior Court, as ESPN reported, seeking sole control of the Spanos Family Trust that constitutes more than one-third of the Chargers’ ownership. (Late billionaire Alex Spanos purchased the team in 1984, and his four children, including Dean and Dea, each own 15 percent of the club, while the family trust owns 36 percent.) Berberian, therefore, is looking to control a total of 51 percent of the team, making her majority owner.
Her lawsuit also requests the court suspend and remove Dean Spanos as a co-trustee, accusing both he and brother Michael, the team’s vice chairman, of operating “out of their deeply held misogynistic attitudes and sense of entitlement as the men in the family.” The Spanos brothers, her lawsuit argues, “believe to their cores that, regardless of what their parents intended and their wills specified, men are in charge and women should shut up.”
The families of Dean, Michael and Alexis Spanos Ruhl have since rebutted Berberian’s claims in a statement issued to CBS Sports via Mark Fabiani, special counsel for the Chargers: “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 percent 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.”
Alexis, Dean’s other sister, has also pushed back against Berberian’s allegations: “The statements made in today’s court filing about my brother Dean Spanos are outrageously untrue,” she wrote. “Throughout this entire ordeal that was instigated without justification by my sister Dea Berberian, my brother Dean has been unfailingly respectful of me and of my wishes. And he has been fighting, along with my brother Michael and me, to fulfill the wishes of our mother, Faye, relating to our family and our businesses. To characterize Dean as somehow being less than fully respectful of the women in our family is just not right.”
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Berberian claims that Dean’s decision to relocate the Chargers from San Diego back to Los Angeles in 2017 has put the trust more than $358 million in debt. She also alleges that Dean diverted $105 million from the trust to various debts, claiming he manipulated the trust to borrow over $60 million “for the wasteful purchase” of a private plane “that has no legitimate business justification.” She is represented by Adam Streisand, the same attorney who helped Jeanie Buss take control of the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA.
Dean Spanos, for what it’s worth, has long insisted he will never sell the Chargers. But Berberian, who runs the family trust with her brother as co-trustee, has been angling for more control inside the franchise since at least last year. In March 2021, she filed a petition to Los Angeles Superior Court asking the franchise be sold due to mounting trust debts. Berberian’s sons, Dimitri and Lex Economou, also previously filed a lawsuit against Dean Spanos, alleging that he secretly diverted money from the trust.