The Los Angeles Chargers announced that team owner Alex Spanos died peacefully at his home on Tuesday morning. Spanos was 95.
Most NFL fans have hardly even been aware of Alex Spanos for a couple of decades. While Spanos has always been the team’s owner, he passed day-to-day control of the team to his son Dean Spanos before the 1994 NFL season. As a result, the elder Spanos’ death will cause few changes in the way the Chargers are operated.
Born to Greek immigrants in 1923, Spanos started off working in the family bakery. He served as a B-29 tail gunner in World War II, and eventually built a real estate empire.
He fulfilled a lifelong dream — to own an NFL team — in 1984, when he purchased a 60 percent stake in the San Diego Chargers for $70 million. Over the next decade, he bought out almost all of the investors who had purchased the team from original owner Barron Hilton in 1966, eventually owning 97 percent of the team.
The Chargers made the playoffs nine times during Spanos’ ownership of the team, but never won an NFL championship; they lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl following the 1994 season.
But under Spanos, the Chargers did bring many stars to the NFL. Chargers players like Drew Brees, Junior Seau, LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers will be long-remembered by NFL fans.
In a statement, Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt spoke of Spanos in glowing terms.
“Alex Spanos was the definition of an American success story. Ingenuity and a relentless work ethic made him an accomplished businessman, and his generosity and commitment to helping others created a lasting legacy. He was a fierce competitor in the AFC West and a dear friend of our family for four decades. Our prayers are with Dean, Susie and the entire Spanos family during this difficult time.“
Spanos is survived by three other children, 15 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. His wife Faye — to whom he was married for more than 70 years — died earlier this year.