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Wilf, Landis, Mandelbaum avoid spotlight

MINNEAPOLIS -- They're silent partners with deep pockets.

The three men Reggie Fowler picked as investment partners in his quest to buy the Minnesota Vikings are prosperous, longtime New York-area real estate developers who shun publicity: Zygmunt Wilf, Alan B. Landis and David Mandelbaum.

"These people were the obvious candidates," Fowler said.

The NFL's Finance Committee will meet next week to decide whether to recommend Fowler's deal with Vikings owner Red McCombs to all the NFL's team owners. The deal would make Fowler the NFL's first black owner.

"I'm making decisions as if I were to continue to be the owner
of the Vikings although I fully expect that Mr. Fowler's deal will
be consummated," McCombs said in a teleconference from Texas.

McCombs said commissioner Paul Tagliabue has met with Fowler to
discuss a number of issues, including Fowler's financial status and
an embarrassing incident two weeks ago in which Fowler
representatives distributed a biography to reporters that included
several inaccuracies.

"(Tagliabue) was very comfortable with the answers to all of
that and he was very comfortable with Reggie and that the process
was moving forward and making progress,'' McCombs said.

In a story for Thursday's editions, the Star Tribune reported that Wilf, Landis and Mandelbaum are attractive parts of the package; their transparent wealth lends credibility to the bid from
Fowler, an Arizona businessman whose own holdings and net worth
have been harder to quantify.

Under NFL rules, the general partner, who controls team operations, can own as little as 30 percent of the team.

When Fowler announced his purchase agreement last month, worth a reported $625 million, he was the center of attention. Wilf, Landis and Mandelbaum literally stood in the background at the news conference, refusing to identify themselves to reporters.

Wilf, Landis and Mandelbaum met Fowler sometime late last year, when he came to New York in search of partners, the Star Tribune reported. An associate of Fowler's, Detroit-area lawyer Jim Stapleton, made the connection, the report said.

According to the Star Tribune report:

  • Wilf helped build a New Jersey business from apartment rentals
    into a 100 percent family-owned real estate development company
    rated 21st-largest in the country by the Retail Traffic trade
    publication, the Star Tribune reported.

  • He's chief operating officer of Garden Commercial Properties,
    based in Short Hills, N.J., a subsidiary of a company started by
    his father and uncle. Garden Commercial owns about 30,000
    apartments in five states and Israel, according to business
    publications. Garden Commercial also owns more than 100 retail
    properties -- 21 million square feet worth -- with Wal-Mart, Home
    Depot, Lowe's, and Walgreens among its favored anchors.

  • Landis was part-owner of the NBA's New Jersey Nets, which was bought in 1998 for $150 million and sold for $300 million last
    year. He's also CEO of the Landis Group, of New York City. The
    560-acre Carnegie Center development near Princeton, N.J. earned
    him the 1991 Urban Land Institute Award for Excellence, but it nearly bankrupted him in the early 1990s in a real estate downturn.

    In 1998, Landis sold Carnegie and a New Brunswick, N.J., office
    tower to Boston Properties, the ninth-largest real estate
    investment trust (REIT) in the country, for $284 million, including
    $137 million in cash. The deal also brought the Landis Group $95.4
    million in shares of the REIT.

  • Mandelbaum is a member of the Mandelbaum & Mandelbaum law firm in New York and a partner in Interstate Properties, where he began his association with Steven Roth, leader of the Vornado REIT. Roth persuaded Mandelbaum to invest $250,000 in the formation of Interstate Properties in 1965. Now Interstate owns 8 percent of Vornado, the fourth-largest REIT in the country with a market value of $8.9 billion. Mandelbaum's holdings are worth an estimated $475 million.

    None of the three returned phone calls from the Star Tribune.