Dayton questions business dealings of Vikings owners

  • Article by: JIM RAGSDALE and RICHARD MERYHEW , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: August 10, 2013 - 10:16 PM

The governor wants assurance that stadium dealings are “truthful and accurate.”

hide

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Gov. Mark Dayton, the prime political force in the drive to build a $975 million stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, questioned the team owners’ business ethics Thursday and urged a review to ensure that team’s commitments in the stadium deal are “truthful and accurate.”

“I find it very, very concerning,” Dayton said Thursday

Dayton’s harsh critique came after a New Jersey judge said that Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and his family’s real-estate business committed fraud, breach of contract and violated the state’s civil racketeering statute in a two-decade-old real estate deal. The lawsuit began long before the Wilfs purchased the Vikings in 2005, but Dayton said it raised serious questions about the state’s own dealings with them as they edge toward the Aug. 23 signing of the final agreement for the new $1 billion stadium.

“I would urge the board to have its legal counsel assure them and the people of Minnesota that all the representations made by the team and its owners are truthful and accurate,” Dayton said in a statement.

The team says the lawsuit has nothing to do with the family’s ownership of the Vikings or the stadium deal with the state and the city of Minneapolis.

“The Vikings have spoken with Governor Dayton’s representatives and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and [have] assured all parties that this lawsuit will have absolutely no impact on the stadium project,” Zygi Wilf and his brother, Mark, said in a statement. “We look forward to our continued work with the MSFA to build this statewide asset on time and on budget.”

At the Farmfest trade show Thursday, Dayton did not accuse the Wilfs of any questionable dealings with him or the Legislature, which approved a publicly-funded stadium in May of 2012. Referring to the New Jersey case, he said: “It’s just far away from the kind of standard we have for business here in Minnesota. It’s very distressing.”

‘Bad faith and evil motive’

The lawsuit involved a dispute over a business partnership that built a 764-unit apartment complex in Montville, New Jersey. Superior Court Judge Deanne Wilson found that the Wilfs failed to meet the “barest minimum” of their responsibilities as partners. “The bad faith and evil motive were demonstrated in the testimony of Zygi Wilf himself,” Wilson said, according to an account in the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

“This is a business dispute about terms of a deal from 21 years ago,” said Lester Bagley, vice-president of public affairs for the Vikings. “It’s an ongoing legal matter so we can’t really comment. But the Wilfs have always operated with honesty and integrity and they’re good partners and they’re good partners with the state of Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis.”

The resolution of the civil suit comes as the authority and team are in the final stages of negotiating stadium use and development agreements, and just weeks before the state plans to sell taxpayer-backed bonds to help finance its portion of the construction. The stadium financing legislation calls for the state of Minnesota and city of Minneapolis to pay for $498 million of the $975 million construction cost. The Vikings would pick up the remaining $477 million through an NFL loan, stadium naming rights, sponsorships and seat licensing fees.

About $200 million of the team’s commitment will come from a fully guaranteed NFL loan that will be repaid over 15 years. Brian McCarthy, a league spokesman, said Thursday in an e-mail that the outcome of the Wilf’s civil case will have no bearing on the team’s standing or the NFL’s commitment to the stadium project. “League financing remains on track and unaffected,” McCarthy wrote.

Michele Kelm-Helgen, who helped put the deal together as a top Dayton aide and now chairs the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, said the authority “takes the allegations raised in the New Jersey lawsuit and the comments from Judge Wilson very seriously.” She said the agreements with the team include “a detailed audit and oversight of the Vikings financing plan for the stadium, along with a review of their assets and financial position that will back their stadium financial plan.”

The Vikings and the Wilfs also have assured her that the civil court battle “will have no bearing on the stadium. They will have the resources to move ahead,” she said.

Bagley declined Thursday to identify the sources of the team’s financing. But in their statement, Zygi and Mark Wilf said “several leading financial institutions” were involved and that “the funding is secure.”

Dayton said he believes there is no need to revise the state law that spelled out the agreement among the state, the city and the team. “But again if there were representations made as part of the negotiations [that] prove to be untruthful and inaccurate, that changes the situation entirely,” he said.

Rybak surprised

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said he was surprised by the Wilfs’ legal problems.

  • related content

  • NFL says no to most bags, purses in stadiums

    Friday August 9, 2013

    Leave the diaper bag; bring the breast pump. Backpacks and fanny packs are out of bounds. Cameras and binoculars are OK if they’re not in bags.

  • Gov. Mark Dayton

  • Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton Met today with Vikings owner Zygi Wilf at the Capitol to try to reach a stadium agreement. ] GLEN STUBBE * gstubbe@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Texas - WP: N. Martinez 7 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Gray 2
Boston 1 Bottom 4th Inning
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 0 Bottom 5th Inning
NY Yankees 0
Washington 5 Top 5th Inning
Miami 1
Los Angeles 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Chicago Cubs 0
Cleveland 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Houston 0
Milwaukee 0 Top 1st Inning
St. Louis 0
Arizona - V. Nuno 7:40 PM
Colorado - Y. Flande
Philadelphia - K. Kendrick 8:10 PM
San Diego - R. Erlin
Seattle - F. Hernandez 9:05 PM
LA Angels - W. LeBlanc
Tampa Bay 7:25 PM
Atlanta
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 3 2nd Qtr 13:16
(20) Kansas State 0
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary

ADVERTISEMENT

Advertisement
Golden Gavel by Star Tribune

Countdown to great deals

Bid Sept. 21-29

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Will Adrian Peterson ever play for the Vikings again?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close