Con­tro­ver­sial NFL team owner Alex Spanos left his mark on Charg­ers fans in two Cal­i­for­nia cities.

The Washington Post - - METRO - FROM NEWS SER­VICES

Alex Spanos, a self-made mil­lion­aire who used his for­tune from con­struc­tion and real es­tate to buy the San Diego Charg­ers in 1984, died Oct. 9 at 95. The team an­nounced in 2008 that Mr. Spanos was suf­fer­ing from dementia, but no other de­tails were avail­able.

As founder of to­day’s A.G. Spanos Cos., closely held by his fam­ily, Mr. Spanos built more than 120,000 apart­ment units in al­most two-dozen states and about 2 mil­lion square feet of com­mer­cial space, start­ing in 1960. Its projects in­clude the Spanos Park East and West com­mu­ni­ties in his home­town of Stock­ton, Calif. The fam­ily’s net worth was es­ti­mated to be $2.4 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Forbes magazine.

He bought con­trol­ling in­ter­est in the Charg­ers for about $50 mil­lion from Gene Klein in 1984. He even­tu­ally bought all but the 3 per­cent that was held by Ge­orge Per­ni­cano.

Mr. Spanos tapped his old­est son, Dean, to help run the team. It was Dean Spanos who de­cided to move the Charg­ers from San Diego, their home of 56 years, to Los An­ge­les in 2017.

Af­ter then-Gen­eral Man­ager Bobby Beathard nearly re­signed fol­low­ing the 1993 sea­son be­cause of a feud over sign­ing bonuses for free agents, Alex Spanos put Dean in charge of day-to-day op­er­a­tions of the team. With Beathard re­main­ing, the Charg­ers made their only Su­per Bowl ap­pear­ance, a 49-26 loss to the San Fran­cisco 49ers, in Jan­uary 1995.

Af­ter fail­ing for years to get a new sta­dium to re­place the ag­ing Qual­comm Sta­dium, the Charg­ers moved to Los An­ge­les, tem­po­rar­ily re­lo­cat­ing to StubHub Cen­ter in sub­ur­ban Car­son. They will share a state-ofthe-art fa­cil­ity in In­gle­wood with the Rams once it is com­pleted.

Alex Spanos first raised the topic of a new sta­dium in 2000, just three years af­ter the city ex­panded Qual­comm by 10,000 seats for the Charg­ers, tout­ing it as be­ing Su­per Bowl-qual­ity. The sta­dium hosted Su­per Bowls in 1988, 1998 and 2003, but the city fell be­hind on main­te­nance and it fell out of the Su­per Bowl ro­ta­tion.

Mr. Spanos wasn’t held in warm re­gard by many San Diego fans and was booed dur­ing a half­time cer­e­mony to re­tire Hall of Famer Dan Fouts’s No. 14 in 1988. Af­ter that, Mr. Spanos didn’t par­tic­i­pate in sim­i­lar cer­e­monies.

Dur­ing his third sea­son of own­er­ship, Mr. Spanos fired le­gendary coach Don Co­ryell af­ter the Charg­ers started 1-7 in 1986. It took nine sea­sons for the Charg­ers to make their first play­off ap­pear­ance un­der Mr. Spanos’s own­er­ship, in 1992.

Steer­ing an NFL fran­chise to­ward on-field suc­cess was a chal­lenge for a busi­ness­man ac­cus­tomed to fo­cus­ing on noth­ing but the fi­nan­cial bot­tom line, Mr. Spanos said in a 2002 in­ter­view.

“The most sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence of own­ing a team and try­ing to run a team, as op­posed to busi­ness it­self, is you have to rely on oth­ers to make it hap­pen for you,” he said. “I al­ways set five-year goals, and I set a five-year goal to go to the Su­per Bowl, never re­al­iz­ing that I had to rely on oth­ers to make it hap­pen for me.”

He said it took him time to ac­cept that, as owner, “I can’t play foot­ball, I can’t coach.”

Mr. Spanos took an un­likely road to NFL own­er­ship.

Alexan­der Gus Spanos was born in Stock­ton on Sept. 28, 1923. His fa­ther had come to the United States from Greece in 1912 and set­tled in Stock­ton to work at a restau­rant started by his cousin, ac­cord­ing to “Shar­ing the Wealth,” Mr. Spanos’s 2002 mem­oir. He said he was named Leonidas on his birth cer­tifi­cate and be­came Alexan­der at his chris­ten­ing, when his god­fa­ther, a fan of Alexan­der the Great, de­clared that to be his name.

He be­gan col­lege at Cal­i­for­nia Polytech­nic State Uni­ver­sity in San Luis Obispo, Calif., be­fore en­list­ing in the U. S. Army Air Forces in 1942. Af­ter World War II, he re­turned to Stock­ton and spent two years at the Uni­ver­sity of the Pa­cific, then went to work at his fa­ther’s bak­ery.

In 1951, mar­ried and stymied in his bids for pro­mo­tion and a raise be­yond $40 a week, he con­cluded that his fa­ther saw him as “a lowly baker, a col­lege dropout,” and he quit. With an $800 bank loan, he be­gan a lunch-de­liv­ery ser­vice to farm­work­ers, start­ing with bologna sand­wiches. He branched into pro­vid­ing tem­po­rary hous­ing for mi­grant farm­work­ers from Mex­ico dur­ing har­vest months.

With the money he made, he started buy­ing real es­tate in 1956 and build­ing res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial sites in 1960.

He made an un­suc­cess­ful at­tempt to buy the ex­pan­sion Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers fran­chise in 1974 and was out­bid in 1976 for the 49ers. He bought a 10 per­cent stake in the Charg­ers in 1982, then ac­quired a ma­jor­ity in­ter­est in 1984.

With his wife, the for­mer Faye Pa­pafak­lis, Mr. Spanos had four chil­dren. A com­plete list of sur­vivors was not im­me­di­ately avail­able.

TIM BOYLE/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Charg­ers owner and real es­tate mogul Alex Spanos, shown in 1993, started out by sell­ing tem­po­rary hous­ing to mi­grant farm­work­ers.

1997 PHOTO BY BEN MAR­GOT/ASSOCIATED PRESS

It took Mr. Spanos time to ac­cept that, as an owner, he had to rely on oth­ers: “I can’t play foot­ball, I can’t coach.”

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