Alex Spanos, Patriarch of N.F.L.’s Chargers, Is Dead at 95

Alex Spanos, Patriarch of N.F.L.’s Chargers, Is Dead at 95


Alex Spanos, a son of Greek immigrants who used his construction and real estate fortune to buy the Chargers of the N.F.L. in 1984, died on Tuesday. He was 95.

His family announced the death on the Chargers’ website but did not say where he died. He had lived for many years in Stockton, Calif., where he was born. The franchise, in San Diego for many years and now in Los Angeles, said in 2008 that he had dementia.

Mr. Spanos bought controlling interest in the team for $48.3 million (about $120 million today) from Gene Klein, a Bronx-born Southern California businessman. (Mr. Klein, who died at 69 in 1990, had bought the team from the original owner, Barron Hilton, scion of the hotel family, in 1966.)

Mr. Spanos eventually bought all but the 3 percent of the Chargers owned by George Pernicano, a San Diego restaurant entrepreneur.

Mr. Spanos continued to live in Stockton, about 80 miles east of San Francisco, after purchasing the Chargers, but his oldest son, Dean, moved to San Diego to help run the team.

During his third season of ownership, in 1986, Mr. Spanos fired the team’s revered head coach Don Coryell, an architect of pro football’s modern passing game, after the Chargers started 1-7.

It took nine seasons for the team to make their first playoff appearance under Mr. Spanos’ ownership, in 1992, and he was not held in warm regard by many San Diego fans.

In 1988 he was booed during a halftime ceremony to retire the Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts’ No. 14. After that, Mr. Spanos did not participate in similar ceremonies.

In 1995, under Bobby Beathard, the general manager at the time, and Dean Spanos, who oversaw day-to-day operations, the Chargers made their only Super Bowl appearance, losing to the San Francisco 49ers, 49-26. Alex Spanos had ceded operations to his son the year before.

It was Dean Spanos, now the team’s owner, who decided to move the Chargers from San Diego, their home of 56 years, to Los Angeles in 2017.

But it was Alex Spanos who first raised the topic of a new stadium in 2000, just three years after the city of San Diego had expanded the Chargers’ aging home field, Qualcomm Stadium (originally Jack Murphy Stadium), by 10,000 seats, saying it was now of Super Bowl quality. The stadium hosted Super Bowls in 1988, 1998 and 2003, but the city fell behind on maintenance, and it was dropped from the Super Bowl rotation.

Alexander Gus Spanos was born on Sept. 28, 1923. After working in his father’s bakery in Stockton and serving in the Army Air Forces in World War II, he borrowed $800 from a banker to buy a truck and from it began selling sandwiches to migrant farm workers in the San Joaquin Valley.

He became wealthy investing in real estate and ultimately founded A. G. Spanos Companies, which has built mostly apartment buildings in 18 states.

Forbes magazine listed the Spanos’ family wealth this year at $2.5 billion. Mr. Spanos was an avid golfer who counted among his friends Bob Hope and President Gerald R. Ford. He was known to host presidents, governors and senators at his Stockton estate.

A prominent philanthropist, Mr. Spanos, in 1995, created the Chargers Community Foundation, which has given more than $13 million to nonprofit organizations throughout Southern California, most of it in San Diego County, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Mr. Spanos told of how he became rich in “Sharing the Wealth: My Story” (2002), written with Mark Seal and Natalia Kasparian.

Besides his son Dean, he is survived by another son, Michael; two daughters, Dea Spanos Berberian and Alexis Spanos Ruhl; 15 grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren, The Union-Tribune said.

His wife of 70 years, Faye Spanos, died in August at 92.



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