“Alex Spanos-What History Should Write”
The modern day owner of the San Diego Chargers has died.
Alex Spanos, a self made billionaire, passed away at age 95, after a decade long battle with dementia. His passing comes just months after his wife Faye, passed away too.
His life was the ‘American Dream’, building an apartment construction business from absolute ground zero after World War II.
His philanthropic achievements, notably in Stockton, and then in San Diego were many, including what he did for the University of Pacific, what he did here at UCSD, and what he did with various foundations. The San Joaquin Valley will never forget his benevolence. San Diego will never forget what happened to their 55-years of loyalty.
As owner of the Chargers, he struggled in a very different world.
His 74M purchase of the team from Gene Klien, is now valued at 2B with the team situated in Los Angeles.
Alex Spanos, successful entrepreneur, struggled owning an NFL franchise. He did not know what he was buying, aside from the name of aging quarterback Dan Fouts.
He had no patience, no idea of football infrastructure, and struggled mightily. He hired, he fired, and he had little success.
But credit needs to be given, for he listened to other NFL people, and must be credited for the hiring of longtime Redskins GM-Bobby Beathard.
That hire changed the fortune of the team, for Beathard then hired Bobby Ross, and the rest is history. Make the playoffs, winning seasons, going to the Super Bowl.
Spanos used his business contacts and fellow NFL owners, to net the city its first Super Bowl also, one of three times the game has been hosted here.
But for that limited success, there were lots of missteps, then failures.
He was close friends to once powerful Raiders owner Al Davis, and 49ers legendary owner Eddie DeBartolo-Junior, oddly, both polar opposites in how they conducted business and treated people. Alex never learned anything from DeBartolo, and took a lot of Davis’ style.
Spanos was ruthless as a businessman. It became all about the profits.
His treatment of employees of the NFL club was legendary. Days would come in their offices at Jack Murphy Stadium, when he would walk down the hallways, and doors of all employees would be shut, not wanting to be victims of his screaming sessions, especially after losses, and they lost alot.
Former employees called him ‘a-hole’ and never forgave him for his treatment of his own people like ‘pieces of —-‘.dv
The story of then head coach Dan Henning throwing him out of the coaches office, when the owner came in to berate the staff after another loss in a myriad of 6-10 seasons.
The senior Spanos was at war constantly with the city over an aging stadium. He got renovations and a new practice facility, but within three years wanted a new stadium and a ticket guarantee.
The mayor that era, Dick Murphy, referred to him as a ‘welfare queen’ for all his demands.
For the Spanos family, it became all about the greed, once they made it to the Super Bowl that one time.
Across the other side of the stadium, he had intense dislike of the baseball franchise, the Kroc family ownership, known for its charitable work in the community.
Facing a decaying stadium, the new Padres ownership, John Moores and Larry Lucchino, met with Spanos, to tell him the baseball team was going to build downtown, inviting the Chargers owner to join them in planning the rebirth of the downtown quarters.
Spanos threw them out of the office and said he’d build his stadium, his way. It never got done, and the team eventually moved.
Alex stepped aside in the mid 90s, turning the franchise over to son Dean. The team promptly failed, forcing Alex to insert himself back into the decision making process.
Alex was the one who hired Marty Schottenheimer, and eventually John Butler and AJ Smith, who built a team that had a strong 5-year run.
But Alex’s failings, pale in comparison to what his son has allowed to happen on his watch.
Dean never solved the war between Bobby Beathard and Bobby Ross. The coach left, the team faltered, then the GM was fired too.
Dean never solved the disputes involving then GM-AJ Smith and Schottenheimer. The coach was removed, the GM then fired later as the franchise faltered again.
There would be no solution, no Alex sightings, to bail out his son in the 2000s. Failing health put the father on the sidelines. The son never got a stadium built, was condescending towards city-county officials who had a plan to finance a new stadium.
Like father-like son, Dean became Alex in his ruthless style, in terms of deal making, or relationships, Dean moved the team to LA, and the name Spanos will forever be held in a reverence of hate and greed.
Alex Spanos always wanted to preach the word loyalty, and what it meant to him. The loyalty though only extended to his family, and no one else. I dare you to find any former employees who will have a ‘true’ kind word to say about the senior Spanos.
Sadly, after doing so much initially in San Diego, and having done so much for a troubled city like Stockton, the Spanos name seems to bescorned in every conversation.
What does history write?
His business successes were spectacular. His personal relationships, an utter failure.
Credit him for rallying the franchise twice with his hires. Condemn him for what he allowed the franchise to become once handed over to his son.
The best picture I ever saw was Alex hugging Dean and Beathard, the night they beat the Steelers in the AFC title game to go to the Super Bowl.
The saddest picture I saw was fans burning their Chargers gear infront of the team headquarters, the night the team announced they were moving to Los Angeles.
The Spanos’ were responsible for both those nights.
Sadness today for a patriarch to pass.
Sadness also for what could have been with the Spanos ownership of the Chargers, but instead what it turned into in San Diego. Instead of being revered in our community, the family name is reviled.
There’s sadness too, in telling the truth, but sometimes it needs to be told.