Gov. Mark Dayton is expressing concern over a recent lawsuit involving Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and is urging the Stadium Authority to be cautious when drawing up a final contract for the new Vikings stadium.
Earlier this week, a judge found the Vikings' New Jersey-based owners guilty of fraud and breach of contract in connection with a real estate deal over an apartment development dating back nearly 21 years.
Dayton stopped short of calling for an investigation, but his spokesman said the governor wants to ensure the state is protecting its endzone going forward.
The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority is still working to finalize contract details with the Wilfs before construction can begin. In just two weeks, the board is set to vote on the final lease agreement for the stadium, which is expected to open in 2016.
MSFA chair Michele Kelm-Helgen expressed concern with the judge's findings and said MSFA is already conducting a thorough review of the Wilfs and financing logistics ahead of the stadium agreement vote set for Aug. 23.
"We take them very seriously," Kelm-Helgen said of the New Jersey verdicts. "It certainly gives us pause to know that we need to be very careful."
Zygi Wilf and his brother, Mark, were fixtures at the Capitol during the final stadium debate. The Wilfs and the Vikings have pledged to spend $477 million on the new structure, much of which will come from the NFL.
"[The NFL] assured me that they were comfortable with where the team and the owners were at -- that they felt that there would be no financial issues whatsoever and that the NFL was planning to proceed with their financing," Kelm-Helgen said.
The law which authorized the construction of the stadium already contains a requirement for financial review of the funding. MSFA has hired the firm McGladrey to ensure the Wilfs have the assets to pay for the stadium and the group's legal team is also reviewing the finances.
More information is expected when the vote on the lease agreement comes up on Aug. 23.
STATEMENT FROM GOV. DAYTON
"I am deeply concerned by the Judge's findings that the Wilf family committed fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty; violated New Jersey's civil racketeering statute; and presented untruthful and inaccurate financial statements. Those practices are far from the legal standards for doing business in Minnesota.
The Court's findings pertain to a case that is unrelated to the agreement negotiated last year with the Wilfs and the Vikings. However, since the Stadium Authority has not yet signed the final agreement, I would urge the Board to have its legal counsel assure them and the people of Minnesota that all of the representations made by the team and its owners are truthful and accurate."
STATEMENT FROM ZYGI AND MARK WILF
"The Minnesota Vikings and the Wilf family have long appreciated Governor Mark Dayton's support for a new stadium. The Vikings have spoken with Governor Dayton's representatives and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority and have assured all parties that this civil lawsuit will have absolutely no impact on the stadium project.
The team also has kept representatives from the NFL informed and has confirmed that league financing remains on track and unaffected by the ongoing legal proceedings. The Vikings' guarantee of $477 million in private financing has gone through two years of review and due diligence by our public partners. We have engaged several leading financial institutions to finance this project, and the funding is secure. We look forward to our continued work with the MSFA to build this statewide asset on time and on budget."