SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Chargers minority owner George Pernicano, a longtime San Diego restaurateur, died Thursday at the age of 98, the team announced.
Pernicano helped bring the Chargers to San Diego from Los Angeles in 1961 and was one of five people who bought a small percentage of the then-American Football League franchise.
"George was more than a Chargers icon -- he was a San Diego institution,'' said Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos.
"Everyone in NFL circles loved George and he loved being around the team and the players,'' Spanos said. "He was always upbeat and fiercely proud of this team and his handle-bar mustache was famous as his calling card around the NFL. Our hearts go out to his family and everyone that had the good fortune to know George. He will be missed.''
Pernicano, inducted 20 years ago into the team's Hall of Fame, and his wife, Isabelle, opened Pernicano's restaurant in 1946 in Hillcrest and later started Casa di Baffi.
The restaurants closed in the 1980s and the buildings have been vacant ever since. Their fate rests in part on a community plan update that's winding its way through the city approval process.
Isabelle died in 2012 after 72 years of marriage that produced two sons, six grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
George Pernicano was born in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, into an Italian family of 11 boys and one girl. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II.
He died at his El Cajon home with his family by his side, and services are pending, according to the Chargers.