Understanding The Chargers Ownership News

Making sense of the LA Times story about the Chargers.
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On Thursday morning, the Angeles Times reported that Dea Spanos Berberian filed a motion in court to force brother, Los Angeles Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos, to sell the Chargers.

According to the report, Berberian alleges that the team’s trust is in debt and expenses that exceed $353 million. She is a co-trustee to the family trust along with the eldest Spanos sibling.

Dean Spanos, along with his siblings Michael and Alexis, released a statement about what their sister had done.

“For the three of us, the Chargers is one of our family’s most important legacies, just as it was for our parents,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, our sister Dea seems to have a different and misguided personal agenda.”

The three Spanos siblings want the team to stay in the family the way their father, Alex, and mother, Faye, wanted it.

Alex Spanos bought the team in 1984 for $40 million. When he and his wife passed away in 2018 their 36% was to be divided in nine percent for each sibling.

According to the team’s special counsel Mark Fabiani, the Spanos siblings each own 15% of the team right now. In a couple of years when the families trust assets are distributed each sibling will gain an extra nine percent.

So, that means each sibling would have 24% and combining to make up 96% of the team’s ownership. Now, because each sibling owns a piece of the pie there is no “majority owner” -- it is all split equally making them all minority owners.

What does that mean?

In this case, if Dea Spanos wants to sell the team, she would need the rest of the siblings to be in on wanting to sell it as well; she can’t sell it on her own.

According to Fabiani, even if Dea Spanos can get this approved through the court systems in a couple of years the three siblings can buy her shares and split it between them equally.

In the statement the siblings put out it also stated, “operations of the Chargers will be entirely unaffected by this matter.”

This is true because this will take a while to get figured out in court. Dea Spanos’ dispute is with the 36% of the team’s trust. It has nothing to do with the 15% controlling actions that the siblings each have.

Dea Spanos said the family has a lot of debt, according to the court filing. The Spanos siblings feel like she is painting only one side and not both. Fabiani said that Alex Spanos set this trust up carefully. The trust has assets from the Chargers, the construction company, and others.

“It was designed to allow the team to remain in the family for generations to come and the assets of the trust far exceed the liabilities of the trust,” said Fabiani. “Once the IRS decides what the estate tax is going to be there will be no problem with the trust satisfying its obligations.”

Dea Spanos hired Adam Streisand as her attorney, who happens to be the same lawyer who represented Steve Ballmer in buying the Los Angeles Clippers and Jeanie Buss in garnering control of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Chargers are still trying to make an impact in Los Angeles. Yes, the city has LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Mookie Betts, Kawhi Leonard, Mike Trout, and numerous other stars, but the Chargers now have quarterback Justin Herbert.

He is a superstar quarterback in waiting who could ascend quickly if things go right for the team, not only this offseason but during the season. The team also has to compete with another NFL team in the Los Angeles Rams who have Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey.

The Chargers share a five-billion-dollar stadium with the Rams called SoFi Stadium. After having problems putting fans in seats at Dignity Health Sports Park for three seasons it will be interesting to see if Herbert can help them in that area.

For now, the Spanos family along with the team will be “business as usual”. The three siblings will contest their sister’s motion, but as far as the siblings are concerned it seems like nothing will come of this. Dean Spanos has been very adamant in the past that he will not sell the team.