Eighty-four million dollars levied against the Wilfs

The question of Vikings future still under discussion


ThroughMyEyesnewOn Monday, Sept 23, Minnesota media reported, almost breathlessly, New Jersey Judge Wilson’s order for damages, using headlines with a different slant than New Jersey.

Newark Star Ledger: “Judge announces damages of $84.5 million against Wilfs in long-running lawsuit.”

Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Wilfs fined $84.5 million in New Jersey real estate fraud case.” Attorney fees of $16 million could push it over $100 million.”

Minneapolis reporting leaves out three key points. (1) The Wilf position: How little, if anything, those suing actually did (hence Wilf actions and subsequent lawsuit). (2) The bogus concern: Can the Wilf’s pay, as the legislation allows stadium revenue sources to pay the Vikings share, not the Wilfs personally? (3) Number two is because of Minnesota arrogance, as seen in Ted Mondale’s 2011 statement that is the essence of how the governor, legislature, and sports authority have acted, that “a stadium deal is not complicated.” The Wilfs not only recognize the complexity of the deal, they actually understand contracts and finances and are better negotiators.

We’ve written on this for a decade. But those in both government and at the Vikings have not listened, which is why they are at this cross roads, with the Wilfs in the stadium driver’s seat. Don’t force them into an either/or decision: get the parking space they want or park in L.A.

Within a half hour of the decision in New Jersey, the Wilfs’ attorney conducted a conference call with Minnesota press. Was the attorney correct when he said they are prepared to “move forward,” are “committed,” and “look forward” to a new stadium for kick off 2016? Or are these “must say” Madison Avenue-type clichés, saying all the right things but maybe for all the wrong reasons as they study the road map options: stay, sell or drive to L.A.?

According to the stadium schedule, by the time this column is printed (we submit eight days prior to publication), the Wilfs will have signed a lease agreement, the state will have found purchasers for the $348 million in bonds it issues (we have no idea what the city will do regarding its $150 million obligation), and the Vikings will be back on track for their Fall 2016 opening. We are not convinced it will happen.

However, to make the sale of these bonds attractive, purchasers need a permanent tenant, which is needed to negotiate seat licenses and other revenue generation considerations that will pay the Vikings stadium half. So, is this a back-door strategy, as believed by NFL insiders, to humiliate the Wilfs to the point where they will sell to a local buyer, or is this an exercise to explain why the Vikings will have to be given everything they want in order to stay?

Will the Wilfs stay or look toward the golden West? Nothing suggests the Wilfs want out of pro football. Nothing suggests that the gods/owners of the NFL would force the Wilfs to sell.

Will the Minnesota Vikings faithful enjoy their beloved Vikings for another 50 years in the people’s stadium, or will Minnesota foolishness, arrogance and pettiness result in the “move” scenario?

We wrote in an earlier column of an under current of anti-semitism directed toward the Wilf family. The Wilf family survived the Holocaust. I’m sure Zigi Wilf does not want to feel anti-semitism is widely in place in Minnesota.

Minneapolis media needs to do a better job of reporting actual facts and issues in the Wilf’s New Jersey lawsuit. The Wilfs may very well be able to demonstrate to the appeals court in New Jersey who had a personal bias against the Wilf family.

Stay tuned.


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