Stadium authority to ask Vikings and Wilfs to pay for extra legal work
- Blog Post by: Richard Meryhew
- August 15, 2013 - 1:48 PM
So who will pay for the deeper legal and financial background check into Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and his family that was ordered up this week by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority?
If authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen has her way, the team and the owners will foot the bill.
Kelm-Helgen said Wednesday that the cost of the "normal" due diligence work required of the authority as it negotiates the final terms of the stadium deal is covered under the project's $975 million construction budget.
But she said any additional investigative work into the Wilfs' business background, especially as it relates to their recent legal troubles in New Jersey, will be charged to the team or its owners.
"As a public body, we think it's important that this additional work that needs to be done be covered by the Wilfs or the Vikings," she said.
The authority on Tuesday said that it had hired securites attorney Peter Carter, of the Dorsey & Whitney law firm, and FTI Consulting, an international forensic accounting firm, to conduct an extensive background investigation into Wilf and his family to see whether their legal troubles will affect their ability to help finance the stadium project..
The additional work stems from a finding last week by a New Jersey Superior Court judge in a long-pending lawsuit against Wilf and the family's real estate business. The judge said the family was guilty of fraud, breach of contract and violations of the state's civil racketeering statute in connection with a real estate partnership. The Wilfs were sued two decades ago by two business partners who alleged they were cheated out of more than $20 million over ownership of a 764-unit apartment project called Rachel Gardens, in Montville, N.J.
Gov. Mark Dayton later urged the stadium authority and its legal counsel to carefully review the owners and team commitments to the stadium project to ensure that they were "truthful and accurate."
The state of Minnesota and city of Minneapolis are responsible for $498 million of the $975 million construction cost with the team picking up the rest.
Kelm-Helgen said she has spoken with Vikings officials about the billing, but added "they haven't agreed to it."
Lester Bagley, the team's vice president for public affairs, said Wednesday that neither the Wilfs nor the Vikings "have a business relationship with Dorsey & Whitney or FTI." He declined further comment.
The more extensive background work comes as the Vikings and stadium authority near final negotiations on stadium lease and development agreements. The two sides had hoped to sign off on both at the authority's Aug. 23 meeting, but have pushed final action to a later date.
Kelm-Helgen and Bagley said the delay shouldn't disrupt plans to break ground on the project sometime in mid to late October.
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