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 by attorneys representing Dea Spanos Berberian, who is seeking sole control of a family trust that constitutes more than one-third of the Chargers' ownership. The suit also asks the court to suspend and remove Spanos as a co-trustee and seeks unspecified financial damages awarded to Berberian.
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." 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 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, Alexis Spanos Ruhl and Michael Spanos released a statement later Friday reaffirming their unity.
"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 statement read. "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 also released an additional statement defending Dean.
"The statements made in today's court filing about my brother Dean Spanos are outrageously untrue," the statement read. "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."
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 nor Streisand responded to ESPN's requests for comment.
A lawyer familiar with the matter told ESPN that Berberian's motive for filing the suit is to embarrass Spanos publicly. The lawyer went on to say that Berberian's three siblings, Dean, Michael and Alexis, have stood firmly in opposing her in the past and that "today's lawsuit will receive the same reaction."
The NFL has declined comment on the matter.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.