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UPDATED: Dayton ‘deeply concerned’ about NJ case against Vikings owners

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Vikings stadium news conference at State Capitol
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, left, and Gov. Mark Dayton, right, shake hands after a news conference in January 2012. (MPR File Photo/Jennifer Simonson)

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton is urging further scrutiny into the stadium deal following the news that Mark and Zygi Wilf have lost a big real estate court case in New Jersey. His deputy chief of staff, Bob Hume, just put out this statement:

“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.”

A judge in New Jersey ruled against the Wilf brothers earlier this week, saying the two had systematically cheated their partners in a 764-unit apartment building in Montville, N.J.

"The bad faith and evil motive were demonstrated in the testimony of Zygi Wilf himself," Superior Court Judge Deanne Wilson said, adding the Wilfs hadn't fulfilled the "barest minimum" of their pledges as partners in the deal. "I do not believe I have seen one single financial statement that is true and accurate."

Officially, she ruled that Zygi Wilf, his brother Mark and cousin Leonard committed fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty and violated New Jersey's civil racketeering law.

The news comes as the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority are negotiating the final terms of a use agreement -- essentially the stadium lease -- for the new facility the state agreed to build last year. Taxpayers are also financing $348 million of the $975 million project. The Vikings agreed in 2012 to pay $477 million of the deal.

"This is a private business matter and involves a business dispute," Vikings vice president of public affairs Lester Bagley told the Associated Press yesterday. "But it will not impact the Vikings or the stadium project."


Michele Kelm-Helgen, chairwoman of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority wasn't immediately available for comment, but issued this statement this afternoon:

“The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority takes the allegations raised in the New Jersey lawsuit and the comments from Judge Wilson very seriously. Yesterday I spoke with three NFL executives and they assured me the League continues to support this Stadium project and definitely plan to proceed with their financial commitments which are part of the team's financing.”

“The Authority Board is planning to review and vote to approve the Use agreement and the Agreement for the new stadium at its August 23 Board meeting.  These documents will define the lease with the team in the new stadium along with the agreements and details of the team's financing plan. Included and clearly outlined in those documents, is our planned process for 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 financing plan.  We will use our existing financial consultant, (which is a national accounting firm), and our law firm, to do this detailed audit and financial review.”