Vikings Owner Short-Changing Minnesota?
By Brett Spielberg
Zygi Wilf, the billionaire owner of the Minnesota Vikings, was recently ordered to pay out $84.5 million by a ruling in a New Jersey real estate fraud case.
While Wilf has claimed no wrongdoing, the judge ruled that “bad faith and evil motive” best described Wilf's business practices and actions relating to the case. Most importantly, the judge ordered that Wilf provide financial information on his net worth.
That prompted an appeal.
Wilf and his family (who were also a part of the lawsuit) claim a bias against their wealth and claim precedence in their argument that they should not have to disclose their net worth.
However, one specific part of their argument should cause the hair on the back of Minnesota taxpayers necks to stand up on end:
The Wilfs claim that their businesses rely on the counterparty's that they negotiate with to remain uninformed of the true financial capability of the Wilf family. They go on to state that counterparty's currently in negotiations with the Wilfs do not have specific financial information and therefore must tailor their negotiations to ordinary market factors and consideration. Basically, they lose their advantage during negotiation if everyone knows what they're capable of financially.
This might refer to one of their massive real estate deals, like the one that caused this to come to light. But after all of their public threats to secure state financing for a new stadium, this could just be the Wilfs covering their backsides because they've been exposed as having manipulated their "good faith" stadium negotiations. As things stand now, Wilf and any other owner seeking public money does not have to open the books and make public their personal finances, even as they seek free money to pay for a stadium.
If that doesn't seem like a questionable business practice to you, your name might just be Jeffrey Loria.