Stadium board's review of Vikings puts lease deal on hold

6:50 AM, Aug 15, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The stadium board's decision to take a closer look at the Minnesota Vikings' finances will delay the signing of a use agreement and other paperwork connected to the new facility.

Governor Dayton said he supports the decision by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, the agency that is overseeing the design and construction of the new $975 million NFL stadium, to do a financial due diligence review.

Dayton, speaking to political reporters at MPR's headquarters in St. Paul, said he remains very concerned about the findings of New Jersey Judge Deanne Wilson in a lawsuit against the Wilf's that dates back to 1992.

"This was a very, very strong condemnation of their business practices," Gov. Dayton remarked.

"It certainly gives me great concern that this is the way they've operated, at least one time in the past."

Wilson found that Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf, and their cousin Leonard Wilf, concealed part of the profits from the Rachel Gardens apartment complex in Montville, NJ in order to deny their business partners their fair share of the earnings.

The lawsuit could cost the Wilf family tens of millions of dollars, depending on what damages Judge Wilson eventually rewards to the plaintiffs.  But her description of the Wilf's business practices, when it came to that deal, caused Dayton to shudder.

"She really threw the book at them; civil racketeering, misrepresented financial statements, fraud, bad faith and evil intent," Dayton said, explaining his reaction to the New Jersey case.

The Vikings, for their part, have repeated said the New Jersey lawsuit won't affect the stadium project or the Wilf family's ability to remain owners of the team.

Lester Bagley, the Vikings vice president of public affairs, told KARE the team is cooperating fully with the stadium board's review.

"We hope, however, that the board does not delay taking important steps because we're already on a very tight timeline for getting this stadium opened on schedule."

Michele Kelm-Helgen, the chair of the stadium authority, said the board will not be able to vote on the user agreement, which is comparable to a lease, at its next regularly scheduled monthly meeting Aug. 23.

She said the board and the Vikings have not come to terms on that user agreement, and are also trying to hammer out a development deal that would specify how revenues generated by the stadium are divvied up once it opens.

The financial review will take at least three weeks, so that alone would make it impossible for the board to ink a deal with the team in time for that Aug. 23 meeting.

She said that important piece of business won't necessarily have to wait until the Sept 27 meeting, because the board has the legal authority to convene special sessions with three days prior notice.

Dayton said that he hopes, for everyone involved in the stadium pact, that the stadium authority's review finds the Wilf family's financial profile is solid.

"The league has indicated that this has not jeopardized their ownership of the team," Dayton explained.

"They're the people we've got to deal with and we're going to make this project go. If not, we're back where we were before, where they'll most likely move somewhere else."

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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