Alexander Gus Spanos, a longtime owner of the Chargers NFL team and a Stockton native, has died at the age of 95.
Spanos was born in Stockton in 1923 and his parents immigrated to the U.S. from Greece.
He became a billionaire on his own. He went from working in his father's bakery to selling sandwiches to farm workers, to buying property and building apartments. Eventually, he became a highly successful real estate developer, philanthropist and a longtime owner of the Chargers NFL team.
Spanos donated millions of dollars toward education, athletics and the arts in the Central Valley. Many buildings bear his name, including the Spanos Center athletic venue on the Pacific campus in Stockton, and the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex at Sac State.
He also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars for the renovation of a theater in downtown Stockton, provided it be named after his good friend Bob Hope.
Through it all, Spanos and his wife, Faye, always called Stockton home.
"Stayed here, supported this town, continue to support this town," said Tim Daly. "They didn't have to stay in Stockton with the money they made and the success they had but they did. They still lived here to the day that both of them passed."
As a television news reporter based in Stockton for more than 20 years, Daly interviewed Spanos on many occasions. He described the billionaire businessman as very accessible.
"The most positive, openly, almost over-the-top positive about everything, kind of guy," Daly told FOX40. "This crazy energy. This belief that the harder you worked, the more it paid off and that nothing was out of the question as long as you put in the time and the effort and the energy to make it happen."
Spanos leaves behind four adult children, 15 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
His wife passed away two months ago at age 92.
In a written statement, the family said Spanos always put family first.
"Alex was the embodiment of the American dream and leaves behind a legacy of passion and hard work," the statement also read.
His family says he also took pride in both his Hellenic heritage and Greek Orthodox faith.
"It was through that faith he learned compassion and empathy," they said in their statement. "Whenever he was called upon to help, he always delivered. Passionate about education, helping the underprivileged and enabling those with a dream to better their lives, he took pride in setting an example for others to follow."
Among his admirers, actor and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger offered the following statement:
"Alex Spanos lived the American Dream. His incredible story should inspire each and every one of us. As a son of immigrants, he rose from working in his father’s bakery to become a titan of real estate and business. But more importantly, he used his money and platform to give back to the world. He was a dear friend and I’ll miss him dearly. My thoughts are with the entire Spanos family."
University of the Pacific President Pamela Eibeck issued a statement Tuesday morning:
“There have been very few people who have meant as much to University of the Pacific as has Alex G. Spanos. Everyone at Pacific — and generations of future Pacific students who will benefit from his generous heart — are eternally grateful for his love of Pacific and what he has done for the university. His dedication to what we do in the classrooms, in athletics and beyond was exceptional by any standard. His impact on this university over the years and the support he gave freely was extraordinary.”
The school also set up a tribute page for Spanos and his long history of philanthropy in the Stockton area.
The Stockton Kings also released a statement on Spanos' legacy:
“The Stockton Kings are deeply saddened by the loss of Stockton native, Alex Spanos. Leaving an everlasting impact on the city and people of Stockton, Alex will forever be remembered as a passionate and intelligent businessman with a kind and generous heart. Dedicating his platform to promoting education, health and the arts, Alex’s generosity reached beyond California, spreading nationwide and inspiring all. The organization joins the city in mourning the loss of a man who encouraged others to believe in the power of hard work, and our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Spanos family during this time.”
Funeral arrangements for Alex Spanos will be announced in the next few days.