Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday urged an authority overseeing the new Vikings stadium to take extra precautions as it finalizes an agreement with the team's New Jersey-based owners given their legal woes back home.
In a statement Dayton's office circulated Thursday, the governor said he was "deeply concerned" by a judge's ruling against Zygi Wilf and his family in a fraud and breach of contract case. The judge's ruling found that the Wilfs violated a civil racketeering law related to an apartment development deal.
"The Court's findings pertain to a case that is unrelated to the agreement negotiated last year with the Wilfs and the Vikings. However, since the Stadium Authority has not yet signed the final agreement, I would urge the Board 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," Dayton said in the statement.
The Wilfs won approval last year for a new taxpayer-aided football stadium. The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority is hammering out final contract details with Vikings owners before construction starts.
The Vikings responded with a statement of their own later Thursday, saying the team looks "forward to our continued work with the MSFA to build this statewide asset on time and on budget."
"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," the team said.
Superior Court Judge Deanne Wilson ruled in a 21-year legal battle Monday that brothers Zygi and Mark Wilf and their cousin Leonard committed fraud and breach of contract and fiduciary duty and had violated New Jersey's civil racketeering law.
The Wilfs were sued by partners in a 764-unit apartment complex in Montville. Ada Reichmann, of Toronto, and her brother Josef Halpern, of Brooklyn, N.Y., said they were cheated out of their fair share of revenue from the project. They are seeking more than $50 million in damages.
Wilson said she will announce the rest of the ruling and the damages in the next two weeks.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.