Litigation pending in estate dispute over NFL team

Estate disputes are unfortunately common in San Diego and throughout California. This could be due to disagreements as to how property is allocated, questions as to the structure of a will or trust, or allegations of wrongdoing. Some cases are noteworthy and end up playing out in both the courtroom, at the negotiating table and in the media. This can make a complicated situation even more difficult. When there is a major business property and lucrative entity involved, it tends to make matters worse as the warring sides will stake out their position and try to achieve their own ends using whatever tactics they deem necessary. For these complicated cases, having professional advice is imperative.

Dispute between siblings over L.A. Chargers escalates

San Diego residents likely feel a tinge of sadness and anger when their former National Football League franchise, the Chargers, are mentioned. Now located in Los Angeles, the franchise is in the middle of an estate dispute between the son and daughter of late owner Alex Spanos, who died in 2018. The daughter, Dea Berberian, asserts that the NFL is tilting toward her brother Dean in trying to settle the matter via arbitration. She says that a fair hearing is not possible given the NFL’s position. The fight is over the trust that owns 36% of the team. The siblings are the only trustees.

Ms. Berberian says that her brother is trying to justify moving the club from San Diego to Los Angeles and is focused on running the team while ignoring his responsibilities in the trust. Mr. Spanos replied that the accusations are baseless and that she is violating the rules of franchise ownership in the NFL. According to her, the trust is supposed to make certain contributions to charity, but the debt accrued by her brother – $353 million – makes that impossible. She wants the court to order the sale of the team. In addition to the trust accounting for 36% of ownership, the siblings each own 15%. Overall, 96% of the team is owned by the Spanos family.

Trust disputes large and small may require professional guidance

Most people cannot fathom the value of an NFL franchise and the challenges that can arise with owning a team, running it and simultaneously dealing with a trust and family disputes over it. Still, any probate litigation can be considered in this context. Even if the dispute is over a family business, real estate, stipulations in the estate plan and other issues, it is wise to have legal guidance to understand the parameters and know when a lawsuit might be necessary over negotiation. Consulting with those experienced in high-level probate and estate plan disputes may be helpful.