Judge Ruling To Reveal Wilf Fortune Pleases Minnesota Governor

By Don Davis

Gov. Mark Dayton said he is happy with a New Jersey judge’s Monday decision that could make the Minnesota Vikings owners’ finances public.

“Transparency generally is in the public interest,” Dayton told reporters.

In hindsight, he said, it would have been better to look into the finances of Zygi and Mark Wilf when they were negotiating with the state to build a new stadium. “I wish I had that kind of crystal ball.”

Even so, he said, the state and its residents cannot pick who owns the Vikings.

Dayton said that he assumes the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority has the same information that the New Jersey judge has as it completes a report on the Wilfs.

Authority officials say they will release a report on the Wilfs, requested by Dayton, this week.

Judge Deanne Wilson ruled Monday in a New Jersey court that the Wilf must reveal information about their personal wealth as she wraps up a two-decade-long civil lawsuit. Last month, the Wilfs lost the case that involves apartment house financing.

In Monday’s ruling, Wilson gave the Wilfs a break, saying they don’t have to make a financial release until after an appeals court decides their racketeering case, if they appeal.

Dayton’s concern in the case was whether the Wilfs were honest in their negotiations with state officials about a new stadium. That prompted him to seek a Minnesota investigation.

Last week, Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen of the facilities authority said preliminary reports indicate that the Wilfs have enough money to handle their share of the stadium construction costs.

The nearly $1 billion stadium is to be built next to the downtown Minneapolis Metrodome. Groundbreaking is planned for this fall.

The Wilfs are to provide nearly half of the construction cost. Their contribution could include such things as a National Football League loan and the sale of seat licenses at the stadium.

There is no requirement under current law for the Wilfs to contribute any of their own money.

While Dayton said he liked making information on the Wilfs public, provisions his administration and key legislators negotiated with the Wilfs keep much of that secret.

During a Monday special legislative session, Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, introduced a bill to make the information public.

Also, several Republican representatives introduced a bill requiring the Wilfs contribute at least $200 million themselves, separate from revenues such as seat licenses. The bill also would reduce what the state would pay for the stadium.

The only bill heard Monday was about disaster relief, so any stadium legislation would have to be introduced when lawmakers return to St. Paul on Feb. 25.

Dayton said that even with the financial questions, building the stadium is a good deal for Minnesota because it will provide 7,000 jobs for the three years it is being built.

”Nothing of this magnitude is going to happen without hiccups and glitches along the way,” the governor said.