The banging of a gavel in New Jersey is still reverberating in Minnesota.
Three days after a judge ruled that Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf engaged in civil fraud regarding their underpayment of partners in an apartment venture, the Wilfs have issued a statement aimed at slamming the door on chatter that the decision will impact the construction of the building in which their football team will play.
“The Minnesota Vikings and the Wilf family have long appreciated Governor Mark Dayton’s support for a new stadium,” Zygi and Mark Wilf said. “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.”
Though the precise amount of the large check the Wilfs may eventually have to write for their former partners in New Jersey isn’t known, the plaintiffs reportedly sought $51 million at trial as compensation. Concepts like punitive damages and treble damages could put the number well over $100 million, and reimbursement for more than a generation of attorneys’ fees won’t be a small number, either.
While that kind of liability would cripple the ability of most people to finance all or part of the $477 million private contribution toward a billion-dollar stadium, people who have enough money to buy and own an NFL team typically have the resources to pay off large judgments. In this specific case, the point is that the money to pay for the stadium remains in place, and it won’t be jeopardized by the ultimate outcome of the New Jersey case, which could still be pending on appeal when the Vikings blow the horn for the first time in their new stadium.
The statement from the Wilfs doesn’t address an issue that could, in theory, provide a far more significant impediment to the stadium construction. Governor Mark Dayton has urged the MSFA to review the deal one last time to ensure that none of the activities that a judge concluded the Wilfs committed in New Jersey have been committed against the MSFA in connection with the negotiation of the stadium deal.