Wilfs return to Vikes stadium lease talks; NFL stands behind deal finances

Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen and attorney Peter Carter this afternoon released the audit MSFA commissioned of Zygi, Mark and Leonard Wilf, chief owners of the state's NFL franchise.

The stadium authority today said the NFL is backing the deal and the Wilfs are back at the negotiating table, working on lease and finance agreements. Here's a link to the stadium authority report.

"We have received assurances from the NFL today that they are committed to fulfill the obligations under the stadium use agreement and have a team play in Minnesota for the duration of the stadium use agreement," the authority said.

A New Jersey judge found the Wilfs cheated partners in a New Jersey real estate deal dating back to the early 1990s. The prospect of punitive damages has raised questions about whether the Vikings will be able to pay the $477 million they pledged to match $498 million in taxpayer subsidies for the project.

Late this afternoon the Vikings released this statement:

The results of the due diligence inquiry are consistent with the team’s prior statements on this matter – the Vikings and the Wilf family have the financial ability to meet the private commitments to the stadium project. This report, combined with the NFL’s unwavering support, make that clear.

We look forward to continuing our collaborative efforts with the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority to create thousands of jobs, generate significant economic development and deliver a great stadium for Vikings fans and the people of Minnesota.

Below, read details from the press conference.


2:31: Press avail over.

2:30: Kelm-Helgen: Wilfs "Are business people, and we knew they were business people, and they drive a hard bargain... They've become successful business people for a reason." Says MSFA has tried to "hold up its end of the bargain, by protecting the public."

2:23: Carter: Wilfs have "significant holdings... which is how we describe it in the report."

2:21: Carter: Investigation included a confidentiality agreement, and MSFA will comply with that agreement and won't be releasing info on the Wilf's finances.

2:20: Kelm-Helgen: "There isn't a specific line in our budget for due diligence."

2:18: Kelm-Heglen "cost will be significant," but doesn't know a final total of how much the "due diligence" will cost. Says the some due diligence is included in project cost, but costs above and beyond that will be billed to the Vikings. "I will say that at this point, they have not agreed to pay those bills."

2:16: Carter: NFL has assured MSFA that the League is willing to remove an owner, if absolutely necessary, and that the League is committed to the new stadium and keeping a franchise in Minnesota, regardless of what happens with Vikings.

2:15: Kelm-Helgen: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has assured MSFA that the NFL is standing behind the Vikings, and is committed to keeping a franchise in Minnesota.

2:14: Kelm-Helgen: "The one thing I have learned about this is that you need to be really careful to be open and transparent with information."

2:13: Kelm-Helgen: "The Wilfs have been good partners with the authority to date. They are this week back at the table, and we will continue to work with them as partners. I really believe we will get the lease and finance agreements together in short order."

2:11: Stadium authority chairwoman says report "really gives the authority and the public the assurance that we can move ahead with this stadium project."

2:09: Carter: Based on the holdings the Wilfs have, they could meet their obligations even in what we consider a "worst case" in the New Jersey case.

2:08: Carter: Under NJ law, where punative damages are awarded by court, case is referred to county prosecutor and NJ attorney general for potential criminal investigation. "We have no way of knowing what that outcome will be."

2:06: Carter: We assumed a worst case scenario regarding New Jersey case. Looked at NJ law, looked at what the plaintiffs were pursing. It may be that the court decides the damages are less, and we assume the Wilfs will appeal the finding. No way to know how the appelate court will rule.

2:05: "We had complete access to US Bank's underwriting files. Those are the files that the banks gather, prior to issuing any loans."

2:04: Attorney Peter Carter says that team had 15-20 people working "around the clock" at Wilfs finances, had access to the Vikings owner personal financial matters.

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