Chargers owner accused of fiduciary mismanagement by sister in ongoing legal conflict

Chargers owner Dean Spanos attends the NFL team owners meetings in New York in October.
Chargers owner Dean Spanos attends the NFL team owners meetings in New York in October. His sister has petitioned in an existing probate case to remove him as co-trustee of the team.
(Adam Hunger / Associated Press)
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Chargers owner Dean Spanos has been accused of “misogynistic” behavior and repeated “breaches of fiduciary duty” by his sister in a court filing that this week further advanced the ongoing legal battle involving the siblings.

The petition was filed in San Joaquin County Superior Court by attorneys representing Dea Spanos Berberian, who seeks control of a family trust that makes up 36% of the Chargers’ ownership.

The filing also calls for the removal of her brother as a co-trustee and seeks unspecified damages.


Spanos and Berberian were left as co-trustees of the trust following the deaths of their parents, Alex and Faye, in 2018.

In the petition, Berberian accuses her brothers Dean and Michael of repeatedly acting “out of their deeply-held misogynistic attitudes and sense of entitlement as the men in the family … 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.”

It 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.”

In a statement issued Friday by the families of Alexis Spanos Ruhl, Michael Spanos and Dean Spanos, they said: “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 and operation of the Chargers.”

Dean Spanos took over as managing owner of the Chargers in 1994, 10 years after his father bought the franchise.

Regarding the “breaches of fiduciary duty,” Berberian’s petition contends that Spanos repeatedly manipulated the trust’s financials for his personal gain.


The claims include a charge that Spanos borrowed “in excess of $60 million … for the wasteful purchase of an airplane for Dean’s and Michael’s use that has no legitimate business justification.”

A legal filing by Dea Spanos Berberian seeking to force the sale of the Chargers cites $353 million in family trust debt.

April 1, 2021

The legal conflict involving the Spanos siblings came to light in April 2021, when Berberian petitioned the Los Angeles County Superior Court to put the trust up for sale because of growing financial concerns.

In January, Dean Spanos was sued by two of his nephews — Berberian’s sons, Dimitri and Lex Economou — who allege that he secretly diverted money from the family trust.

The nephews claim that Dean Spanos, with the aid of Michael, altered the trust in February 2018 to divert money “to themselves personally.”

In this latest filing — citing financial statements — Berberian says the trust’s debts totaled more than $358 million as of Dec. 31.

This week, Berberian also agreed to allow the NFL to arbitrate a settlement in the case.

Chargers chairman Dean Spanos is being sued by two of his nephews who allege that he secretly diverted money from the family trust that owns the team.

Jan. 22, 2022

Her petition includes claims against Steven Cohen, the executive vice president of The Spanos Corporation. Berberian contends that Cohen “aided and abetted” her brother “every step of the way.”


“It will become clear …” the petition reads, “that Dean, Michael and Cohen have pursued a campaign to punish, belittle and humiliate Dea ever since she had the audacity to speak up against their mismanagement.”

The petition specifically mentions that Cohen “deliberately damaged Dea’s relationship with her Pastor and spiritual advisor, Father Alex Karloutsos.”

In a statement released Friday, Alexis Spanos Ruhl said: “The statements made in today’s court filing about my brother Dean Spanos are outrageously untrue. 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.”

Beyond the 36% owned by the trust, Spanos, Berberian and their siblings, Michael and Alexis , each own 15% of the Chargers, with the remaining 4% belonging to non-family members.

Berberian is represented by Adam Streisand, who represented Jeanie Buss in her fight to gain control of the Lakers from her brothers, and Steve Ballmer in the proceeding that forced Donald Sterling to sell the Clippers.