The Los Angeles Chargers are saddened to announce the passing of team owner Alexander Gus Spanos on Tuesday morning. He was 95.
Alex Spanos purchased the Chargers in August of 1984, culminating a life-long dream to own an NFL franchise. His leadership and commitment to building a championship team provided a solid foundation for the organization’s sustained success on and off the field. His uncompromising drive for success – one rooted in toughness, resilience and hard work – made an indelible mark on the team. He was instrumental in building the Chargers into a respected franchise, and in 1994, led the team to its most memorable season with an appearance in Super Bowl XXIX.
Spanos was an active owner in the NFL, serving on many important committees including the League’s Expansion and Realignment Committee in 1991. He used his influence with other NFL owners to secure Super Bowl XXXII (1998) and Super Bowl XXXVII (2003) for the San Diego community, bringing estimated windfalls of close to $300 million per game to the local economy.
Spanos’ commitment to building a championship team was equal to his commitment to community service. He founded and funded numerous community programs ensuring the Chargers were a vital partner with their community. He aided wherever his heart strings pulled – from providing funds to furnish a young paralyzed high school athlete with a specially equipped van – to spearheading fundraisers for active duty military.
In 1993, in appreciation of his generous support, the San Diego High School Sports Association re-named their high school all-star game the Alex Spanos All-Star Classic – the name it still holds today. In 1995, he went a step further and created the Chargers Community Foundation with the goal of providing even greater assistance to organizations working to improve the health and well-being of the region and its’ young people. Since its inception, the Foundation has provided more than $13 million dollars in the Southern California region.
While he remained active for many years in business related matters related to the team, prior to the start of the 1994 season, Spanos turned over the day-to-day management of the Chargers to his eldest son, Dean, who currently serves as the team’s Controlling Owner and Chairman of the Board.
Spanos was born on September 28, 1923, in Stockton, California. One of six children, he developed his tireless work ethic early as an eight-year-old in his father’s restaurant, rising before dawn to help prepare pastries before attending school each day.
As a young man, he pursued an engineering degree at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California, but following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Tarpon Springs, Florida. It was there he met his future wife, Faye Papafaklis, who would be by his side for the next 77 years. Once his military service ended in 1946, he returned to Stockton and enrolled at the University of the Pacific where he earned varsity letters in swimming and diving.
In 1951, Spanos left the family business, borrowed $800 from the bank, purchased a truck and set out on his own. He began his own catering business serving farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley. He later began investing in real estate and in 1960, formed the A.G. Spanos Construction Company. Spanos soon created a whirlwind of construction activity with building projects throughout California in Tracy, Sacramento and Fresno. Within the next few years, he branched out of California – first to Reno, Nevada and then Las Vegas. This move marked the beginning of a multi-state expansion that initially ran through the Sunbelt from coast to coast and then through the Midwest. Spanos single-handedly built a construction empire stretching across the nation.
In 2004, Spanos turned over the construction side of the business to his youngest son Michael, who also serves as Chargers Vice Chairman.
A son of Greek immigrants, Spanos’ determination to succeed and dedication to community service was recognized in 1986 when he was one of 80 Americans awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation and the New York Statue of Liberty Commission. The honor is bestowed to those who have made freedom, liberty and compassion a part of their life’s work. In 2008, the President of the Republic of Greece, Mr. Karolos Papoulias, awarded Spanos the Medal of the Commander of the Order of Honor. The honor came in recognition of Spanos’ many contributions to Greece.
Over the course of his life, Spanos contributed generously to worthy causes and charities. One of his most generous contributions resulted in the opening of the Alex G. Spanos Heart & Vascular Center in Sacramento, Calif. in 2014. Spanos often was the first to offer aid in times of need, donating $1 million dollars to the American Red Cross to assist flood victims in Northern California in 1997 and in 2003 donating $1 million dollars to the San Diego Fire Relief Fund after devasting wildfires ravaged the county.
Funeral services will be held privately. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in the name of Alex Spanos to the following charities: American Legion – Karl Ross Post #16, 2020 Plymouth Road, Stockton, CA 95204; The Stockton Scholars Endowment Fund at UOP, University of the Pacific, Attn: University Development/Stockton Scholars, Endowed Fund, 3601 Pacific Avenue, Stockton, CA 95211; The Discovery ChalleNGe Academy, 2922 Transworld Drive, Stockton, CA 95206; or YMCA of San Joaquin County, 2105 West March Lane, Suite 1, Stockton, CA 95207
Spanos is survived by his four children, Dean, Dea Spanos Berberian, Alexis Spanos Ruhl and Michael; 15 grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.