Editorial: Is this the way the Wilfs operate?

Published 9:16 am Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Modus operandi: a particular way or method of doing something, especially one that is characteristic or well-established. (New Oxford American Dictionary)

Minnesota struggled for decades to find a funding deal for the construction of a football stadium that could host the Minnesota Vikings. But then in the same year Minnesota gets a deal done, Atlanta gets it done, too, without decades of strife.

And though a stadium question lingered for the Minnesota Twins, it always seemed like the Vikings stadium was the major issue. Then in 2006, the Legislature reached a Twins ballpark deal, and before long, planning was under way.

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Why did the Twins get one first? Why did the Atlanta deal go down so smoothly?

Local, trusted ownership.

Arthur Blank, co-founder of The Home Depot, owns the Falcons. While he originally is from New York, he has been a familiar businessman in Atlanta since opening the first Home Depot in that Southern city in 1978. Its headquarters remain there. Georgians were familiar with Blank when he bought the Falcons in 2002.

Carl Pohlad, a native of Iowa, was a familiar Twin Cities entrepreneur when he bought the Minnesota Twins in 1984, and his family was well-known when the debate over financing a Twins stadium initiated and went through. Knowing the owners made all parties more comfortable. Vikings fans were left wondering where their stadium was.

The owners of the Minnesota Vikings, Zygi and Mark Wilf, are in trouble with a federal judge in New Jersey. According to multiple media sources, the judge found the brothers committed fraud, breach of contract and even violated a civil racketeering law.

They are wheeler dealers in the real estate business on the East Coast. Wheeling and dealing is their modus operandi. Just opening the checkbook for $800 million like the civic-minded Blank did in Atlanta surely wasn’t part of any consideration. The Vikings stadium debate went back and forth like a nail-biting business negotiation, with a good dose of brinksmanship, with multiple years of each side rejecting the offers from the other.

After the stadium deal passed in 2012, the Wilfs were on the hook for $427 million.

The modus operandi of a get-it-done guy like Arthur Blank can go a lot farther for long-term community goodwill than the back-and-forth bartering the Wilfs favor. The stadium talk in Georia only began three years ago. The Atlanta stadium has $200 million in public funds, while the Minneapolis stadium has $498 million. They each have price tags hovering near $1 billion.

Blank, however, has a lot more say in what happens with his stadium. Just read the news.

The Wilfs had best be above board and extra earnest with state officials as the Vikings stadium proceeds. Minnesotans clearly showed their lack of tolerance for rule-breaking pro athletes after the Love Boat scandal in 2005. Any hint of wrongdoing by the Wilfs would reveal that Minnesotans have even less tolerance for rule-breaking, shady-dealing sports teams owners.