A brewing battle over ownership of the Los Angeles Chargers just got publicly ugly.
Dea Spanos Berberian, part-owner of the Chargers and sister of controlling owner Dean Spanos, accused her brother of “misogynistic” behavior, “self-dealing” and repeated “breaches of fiduciary duty” in a lawsuit over control of the team, according to ESPN.
Berberian is reportedly seeking sole control of a family trust that accounts for more than one third of Chargers ownership. Her lawsuit, filed Thursday in San Joaquin County Superior Court, also reportedly requests Spanos be removed as co-trustee and seeks unspecified financial damages.
The lawsuit reportedly argues Dean Spanos’ leadership of the Chargers, specifically moving the team from San Diego to Los Angeles, has left the team in financially dire straits. Berberian claims the Spanos family trust to be all but insolvent and that the family must sell the team to satisfy the trust’s debt obligations, estimated at over $358 million.
In addition to claims of Dean diverting $105 million from the trust to various debts and borrowing $60 million to purchase an airplane for Dean and brother Michael’s use, Berberian paints her two brothers as misogynists.
Berberian accuses brothers Dean and Michael of repeatedly acting “out of their deeply-held misogynistic attitudes and sense of entitlement as the men in the family … and to rationalize their pitiable behavior which she believes is intended to teach her that a woman has no rights, no matter what any trust instrument might say.” The lawsuit also states that 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 previously filed a petition last year to force the sale of the Chargers, who have had to pay a $645 million relocation fee for the privilege of moving up the coast in the Southern California. The move remains controversial at best, as the team initially struggled to attract fans in the already sports-saturated market (the Los Angeles Rams’ earlier arrival and continued success didn’t help).
The team managed to rank in the top 10 in attendance last season with 70,240 fans per home game, but this new lawsuit indicates the team needs much more money flowing its way.
Rest of Spanos family responds
Soon after the report on Berberian’s lawsuit was published, her three siblings and their families released a statement claiming her accusations to be “false and provocative,” via Gilbert Manzano of the Orange County Register:
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 of the Chargers.
Translation: “We’re not selling.”
Who actually owns the Chargers?
Ownership of the Chargers is reportedly divided by the four children of Alex Spanos, who purchased the team in 1984 and died in 2018. Berberian and Dean Spanos each own 15 percent of the team, as do their siblings Michael Spanos and Alexandra Spanos Ruhl. Another 36 percent is held by the trust in question, in which Berberian and Dean are co-trustees. Four percent is owned by non-family members.
Given that a 15 percent stake and the trust’s 36 percent gives majority control of the team, which is currently valued by Forbes at $2.92 billion, control of the trust would obviously be important.
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