Morristown, N.J. – A New Jersey judge has ordered Minnesota Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf and their cousin, Leonard Wilf, to pay $84.5 million in damages to former business partners they defrauded in a 1980s real estate deal.
The ruling covers compensatory damages, punitive damages, a redistribution of profits dating back to 1992 to plaintiffs Josef Halpern and Ada Reichmann. The damages awarded today do not include attorney fees the plaintiffs have accumulated since the suit was first filed in 1992.
In a decision issued last month, Superior Court Judge Deanne Wilson found that the Wilfs, and their cousin, Leonard Wilf, committed fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty and also violated the state’s civil racketeering laws.
The Wilfs did not attend the hearing. The judgment is not final because the Wilfs can appeal the ruling, potentially delaying awarding of damages and a referral of the case to the state attorney general or county prosecutors for criminal investigation.
The court case has been closely watched by the NFL, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority as negotiations continue on the new $975 million Vikings stadium being financed by the state, team owners and the city of Minneapolis.
The Wilfs hope to open the downtown Minneapolis stadium in time for the start of the 2016 football season. Groundbreaking is tenatively scheduled for early November.
The authority board is scheduled to vote on the stadium’s use and development agreements at its Sept. 27 meeting.
An independent audit conducted for the authority found that the Wilfs have enough money to cover their share, roughly $477 million, of the stadium financing regardless of the ruling. Their contribution includes a $200 million loan from the National Football League and revenue generated from stadium naming rights, sponsorships and licensing fees.
Wilson said the Wilfs' ability to pay was not a "major consideration" in her ruling.
"There is [no ruling that I can make] that would serve as a punishment in regards [to the Wilfs'] net worth," she said.