On Saturday, Chargers owner Alex Spanos expanded the club of nonagenarian NFL owners from two to three. Unlike Ralph Wilson of the Bills and Bud Adams of the Titans, Spanos has family members who are ready and willing to take over the family business, well into the future.
Actually, they already have. As explained by Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego, son Dean Spanos (63) continues to run the team, and grandsons A.G. Spanos and John Spanos have positioned themselves to succeed Dean, in time. Possibly in not much time.
35-year-old A.G., the executive V.P. and CEO, specializes in business matters. 33-year-old John, the executive V.P. of football operations, has developed into a personnel specialist.
Yes, it all oozes of nepotism. And, yes, that’s the way Alex Spanos, who suffers from dementia, would want it.
“He always has been a firm believer in nepotism,” Dean Spanos told Gehlken. “A lot of people frown on it. He takes the reverse perspective: It could be the greatest thing in the world. . . .
“The thing I think my dad would be very proud of today is I believe everyone in our family that is working in this business or other businesses have earned that right. They were not given that right. Dad was a big believer of that. He wouldn’t do it if they didn’t earn it. Nobody got a free ride.”
That’s not an easy feat to pull off. Family ties open doors. They also invite a lower level of ambition and performance. Apart from the fact that the “employee” comes from a family with plenty of money and thus a reduced natural incentive to apply nose to grindstone, people typically don’t like to fire family members. So if A.G. and/or John weren’t getting it done, would Dean cut them loose?
For the Spanos family, those issues may not arise.
“Our family has so much into it,” John Spanos told Gehlken. “It’s a lifelong family investment and passion.”
If Dean has concerns, he’s not articulating them publicly.
“Watching them grow into this business, for me, I couldn’t ask for anything greater in my life,” Dean Spanos told Gehlken. “It’s one of the great joys of my life. I just can’t tell you how much I look to the future. They’ve really worked hard. They’ve earned everything in my mind that justifies, at some point and time, they will be running this organization — and probably not in the too far distant future.
“I look at it from this perspective: They’re going to be better and smarter and probably more successful, however you want to define success short of a Super Bowl. They’re made for this business, and they’ve earned it.”
Regardless of whether the grandsons have earned it or lucked into it or lucked into it then earned it, Alex Spanos has achieved something that few other NFL franchises have — two generations beyond him will continue to carry the torch, which means that the Chargers likely won’t be changing hands for decades to come.