Dean Spanos' Sister Dea Asks Court to Force Sale of Chargers to Pay Debts

Adam WellsApril 1, 2021

CARSON, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 06:  Los Angeles Chargers owner Dean Spanos before the game against the Denver Broncos at Dignity Health Sports Park on October 06, 2019 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Dea Spanos Berberian, sister of Los Angeles Chargers owner Dean Spanos, is trying to force a sale of the franchise because of the family's current financial state. 

Per Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times, Berberian filed a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court arguing that "mounting debt has imperiled the family’s finances and the only solution is to put the NFL franchise on the market."

The petition alleges that the trust's debts and expenses "exceed $353 million" and it only has plans to "pay more than $22 million it has pledged to charities."

Dean Spanos, Michael Spanos and Alexis Spanos Ruhl issued a statement, noting that "operations of the Chargers will be entirely unaffected" by the situation and they intend to work together to try purchasing Dea's stake in the organization:

Daniel Popper @danielrpopper

Statement from siblings Dean Spanos, Michael Spanos and Alexis Spanos Ruhl pic.twitter.com/2wv0BBfovN

When the Chargers relocated from San Diego to Los Angeles before the 2017 season, it was in hopes the franchise's value would increase in one of the country's largest media markets. 

The move to L.A. came with a $645 million relocation fee from the NFL to be paid between 2019 and 2028. 

In September 2018, Forbes (h/t Derek Togerson of NBC San Diego) estimated the Chargers' value slightly appreciated to $2.275 billion from $2.08 billion the previous year, their final season in San Diego. 

"The Rams will operate the stadium and therefore benefit the most [as well as assume the most risk] while Chargers will be tenants as benefit less [and assume less risk],” wrote Forbes executive editor Michael Ozanian, via Togerson.

Before the start of last season, Forbes estimated the Chargers franchise value increased to $2.6 billion. 

In a November 2019 report from ESPN's Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr., the Chargers had only sold “a weak 25,000 seasons tickets to date” for the first season at SoFi Stadium in 2020. 

Wickersham and Van Natta noted Spanos and COO Jeanne Bonk made a "controversial decision" to slash prices on "26,000 upper-deck seats, lowering tickets to the $50 to $90 range, and dropped the SSL rate to $100—up to 15 times less than the Rams were charging for the same seats."

Since California-based NFL teams weren't permitted to have fans last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, neither the Rams nor Chargers earned ticket revenue from games in their inaugural season at SoFi Stadium. 

Fenno noted that Thursday's court filing included a letter from November 2019 in which Dean Spanos "vowed" to his siblings that he would "retain an investment bank at the end of the 2024 season in an effort to find a new owner," but Berberian doesn't think that timeframe will work given the "dire" nature of their family trust.

The Spanos family has owned the Chargers since 1984, when Alex purchased the franchise. Dean took over day-to-day control of the organization for his father prior to the 1994 season.