Spanos sued by sister as Chargers feud escalates

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2: 04 PM ET

  • Adam Schefter and Kimberley Martin

Los Angeles Chargers owner Dean Spanos has been accused of “misogynistic” behavior, “self-dealing” and repeated “breaches of fiduciary duty” by his sister in a lawsuit that escalates the siblings’ ongoing legal battle over control of the team. The lawsuit was filed Thursday in San Joaquin County Superior Court. It was brought by Dea Spanos Berberian’s attorneys. She is seeking sole control over a family trust that controls more than one third of the Chargers’ ownership. The suit asks for Spanos to be removed as a cotrustee and seeks unspecified financial damages.

Spanos, Berberian and their siblings Michael Spanos and Alexandra Spanos Ruhl each own 15% of the Chargers franchise, with 36% managed by the family trust and the remaining 4% owned by non-family members.

Spanos and Berberian were left as co-trustees of the trust after the deaths of Alex and Faye Spanos in 2018.

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.” According to the lawsuit, Dean and Michael believe that men are in control, regardless of their parents’ wishes and their wills. “

Berberian contends that the Spanos family trust and subtrusts are all but insolvent, that Spanos’ decision to move the Chargers to Los Angeles has proved financially ruinous and that the family has no option but to sell the team to satisfy the trust’s debt obligations, which she says are currently in excess of $358 million.

The lawsuit also lists multiple allegations of “breaches of fiduciary duty” by Dean Spanos, who is accused of diverting $105 million from the trust to various debts. Spanos also allegedly manipulated the trust to borrow over $60 million “for the wasteful purchase of an airplane for Dean’s and Michael’s use that has no legitimate business justification. “

Berberian also accuses her brothers of conspiring with Steven Cohen, the executive vice president and COO of The Spanos Corporation, to undermine Berberian by “deliberately” damaging her relationship with the pastor of her Greek Orthodox church, Father Alex Karloutsos. The families of Dean Spanos Ruhl, Alexis Spanos Ruhl, and Michael Spanos issued a statement Friday to reaffirm their unity. It is unfortunate that Dea, our sister, who clearly does not want to continue to participate in the family businesses, has taken to leveling false charges and provocative accusations in an attempt to impose herself will on the rest. “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. “

Alexis Spanos Ruhl released a second statement to defend Dean.

” The statements made today in court regarding my brother Dean Spanos were outrageously false,” the statement stated. My sister Dea Berberian was not able to justify the whole ordeal, so my brother Dean Spanos has been unfailingly respectful towards me and my wishes. He has been fighting with Michael, my brother, and me to fulfill Faye’s wishes regarding our family and businesses. It is wrong to say Dean is less than respectful of our family’s women. “

Alex Spanos bought the San Diego Chargers in 1984, and Dean Spanos took over managing the franchise in 1994. The legal conflict came into public view in April 2021, when Berberian petitioned the Los Angeles County Superior Court to put the trust up for sale.

Berberian is being represented by Adam Streisand, who also represented Jeanie Buss when she wrested control of the Los Angeles Lakers from her brothers and Steve Ballmer in the trial to force Donald Sterling to sell the LA Clippers.

Neither Berberian or Streisand replied to ESPN’s requests for comment. A lawyer familiar with the matter said to ESPN that Berberian is filing the suit in order to embarrass Spanos publically. The lawyer said that Berberian’s three brothers, Michael, Dean and Alexis have always stood firm against her in the past, and that today’s lawsuit would get the same reaction. The NFL declined to comment on the matter.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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