Minnesota puts hold on Vikings stadium approval to investigate Wilf’s racketeering case

The other shoe has dropped in the Zygi Wilf racketeering controversy:

With groundbreaking on a new Minnesota Vikings stadium only weeks away, final approval of key development agreements has been put on hold to allow the state to conduct a more extensive background investigation into the team’s owners.

The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, the public body overseeing the nearly $1 billion project, said Tuesday that it has retained Peter Carter of the Dorsey & Whitney law firm to lead a “due diligence” review of Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and his family’s real estate business. Carter has tried cases involving racketeering and performed similar investigations for some of the nation’s largest firms.

This is actually pretty nuts: When it was time to vote on giving the Vikings $800 million in stadium subsidies, despite the fact that much of that was supposed to come from an electronic gambling game that nobody had any idea whether anyone would actually play, the legislature was fine and dandy with it. Now, when it turns out the guy they’re giving the money to swindled his partners out of $30 million by using bookkeeping practices that amounted to “organized-crime-type activities” … okay, I guess that “organized-crime-type” reference in the judge’s ruling was bound to attract some negative attention. But it’s still a little unusual to have a state legislature put an entire stadium deal on hold because they’re shocked, shocked to find that a pro sports team owner might engage in bookkeeping irregularities.

It’s still possible that this entire thing is just an exercise in butt-covering, and in a few weeks Carter will emerge to say: No worries, Wilf isn’t trying to steal $30 million from the state, he just wants the $800 million he already talked you into giving him, thanks. But given that the state has also hired a forensic accounting firm to investigate Wilf’s finances and past record, you have to think they’re at least a little bit serious about checking this guy out. Which you might think would have been a good idea before giving him $800 million, but hey, better at the last possible second than never.

7 comments on “Minnesota puts hold on Vikings stadium approval to investigate Wilf’s racketeering case

  1. Well sure, Zygi Wilf, his brother Mark, and cousin Leonard are fraudster real estate developers from New Jersey, but their OUR fraudelent real estate developers from New Jersey, so we’ll do whatever it takes to give them what they’ve asked from us because that’s what first class cities do.

  2. There’s no way they didn’t know about this as far back as when the Wilfs bought the team. It’s all, as you said, an exercise in butt-covering, to appease the Ed Kohlers of the world. Either way this worked out there was going to be people still hashing it out long after the time was supposed to be up. If the Vikings were leaving town due to no stadium action there would be hoards of angry fans & there would be last-minute injunctions or rulings by judges, like when Carl Pohlad volunteered the Twins for contraction. As it is we have the other side acting as if the world’s going to end because it was decided to go through with it. It’s also an issue that nobody can disagree on civilly. Friends can’t be on opposite sides of this & go forward as friends. That’s the worst part of the whole situation, that it divided people like religion or politics do.

  3. Meh, this is just butt covering. The best case scenario for Minnesota is that Wilf states he will pay additional money into the stadium that the government was supposed to pay, as “proof that he is a good person, with the goal of building something wonderful for the city of Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota”.

  4. So, fair enough, they are investigating Wilf.

    To what end? Is there a suggestion here that if Mr. Carter comes back with a “gee, he looks a little shady to me” report that Minnesota will back out of the agreement (shady and soft on details as it is) they signed with the Vikings?

    If not, then what is the point of all this? As noted above, due diligence is undertaken before binding agreements are signed. The case can be made you are better of maintaining the “blind trust” you had in your partner after the agreement has been signed than hiring an investigator to find out who you’ve actually partnered with. At least then you can fall back on “Oh, if only we hadn’t been such total idiots and trusted this guy…”

    If Carter comes back with a highly negative portrayal (which for a major sports franchise owner would not be a shock, let’s face it), clearly the onus is on the state to do something about it. Like…um, breaching their contract with him?

  5. This is all political posturing. The politicians have noted that their donors at large are wildly against this deal, (as opposed to the singular donor the subsidized), so know they are trying to talk out of both sides of their mouth, as they are wont to do.

  6. Yawn. I’ve said it over and over – I own all the pols up there in tundraville. They’re dancing this investigation jig for as long as I let them.

    Organized crime? LOL! Come on judge, what do you think the NFL is, exactly? That’s why I joined up, baby! So I screwed my business partners. That’s like writing your own ticket when the NFL looks you over – the other 31 billionaires know you know how the game is played–to just win baby, like Al Davis said.

    So this bump in the road and forensic biz will blow over sooner or later and I’ll get my publicly funded Taj Ma-Piggy. It is inevitable – your tax money, like your father’s, is now mine!

    Man, I love quoting that Star Wars emperor dude. He’s like my outer space alter ego.

  7. Here’s a Star Wars quote form Darth Vader we’ll be hearing from Ziggy real soon ” I’ve altered the deal, pray I don’t alter it any further!”