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Vikings Owner: Lawsuit Won't Impact Stadium Deal

Updated: 09/17/2013 5:21 PM
Created: 08/08/2013 4:07 PM KSTP.com
By: Scott Theisen

The Minnesota Vikings owners on Thursday downplayed recent legal woes amid Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton's call for steps to ensure integrity of the team's stadium deal.
    
A judge ruled this week that Wilf family committed fraud, breach of contract and civil racketeering stemming from an apartment development in New Jersey. Mark and Zygi Wilf issued a statement insisting their civil lawsuit troubles back home won't affect a guarantee of $477 million in private financing toward the nearly $1 billion stadium.
    
"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 Wilf brothers said. They said they have apprised the NFL of the ongoing legal proceedings.
    
Their statement came after Dayton commented on the ruling, which hinged on inaccurate and untruthful financial statements.
    
"Those practices are far from the legal standards for doing business in Minnesota," Dayton said in calling upon the stadium authority 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."
    
The Wilfs won approval last year for the taxpayer-aided football stadium, with the state picking up almost $350 million of the tab. The authority is hammering out final contract details with Vikings owners before construction starts.
    
Authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen said NFL executives have assured her that team and league financial commitments will be upheld. She said the board would vote at an Aug. 23 meeting on a lease and other aspects of the private end of the financing plan. As part of that process, she said the authority will lay out an audit and oversight process related to the Vikings share of the project.

But Kelm-Helgen also admits she didn't know about the Wilf civil case until the day before the ruling came down. Gov. Dayton said he didn't know either.
 
"Gov. Dayton told the taxpayers one thing, and the facts turned out to be different today. It's a house of cards," said Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Lindstrom.
 
Barrett voted against the stadium plan, and still doesn't like many details. He said the entire legislature was kept in the dark, and that he didn't know of any legislators who were aware of the civil case.
 
He puts the blame for everyone not knowing squarely on Gov. Dayton.
 
"It starts with the leader, the guy who's running the show, who wants it to happen," Barrett said.
 
Still, he said he agrees with Dayton on one crucial point this week.
 
"He said let's look into it. Let's determine whether that was a good deal," Barrett said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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