Inquiry into Vikings owner finances back on

Published 5:04 pm Wednesday, August 28, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — A review of the finances of Minnesota Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf picked back up Wednesday after the team turned over documents it had withheld.

Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen said the Vikings appear to have turned over all documents needed for the due diligence review. The Wilfs’ finances have become the subject of greater scrutiny after a New Jersey judge ruled the Wilfs defrauded a business partner in an unrelated development deal.

Last week, Peter Carter — the Minneapolis lawyer the stadium authority hired to conduct the review — said the Wilfs had resisted providing documents sought by the state. It was an unwelcome slowdown amid increasing concerns about the construction timeline of the $975 million stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

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Delays in the construction schedule threaten to increase costs to taxpayers, who are covering a total of $498 million. The Vikings are on the hook for the rest.

Groundbreaking on the stadium is planned for October, but the review prompted the Vikings to temporarily halt negotiations last week with the authority on stadium lease and development agreements. Kelm-Helgen said she hoped the progress on the review might urge team officials to return to the table.

“Time is moving here, and I’m still concerned about the schedule,” Kelm-Helgen said.

She said the review was likely to stretch into at least next week, but she thinks it could be finished by the initial Sept. 15 deadline.

Vikings executives have insisted that the Wilfs’ legal troubles in New Jersey would have no bearing on their ability to honor the team’s financial commitment to the project. But Gov. Mark Dayton said the financial review was necessary after the New Jersey ruling, saying his confidence in the Wilfs had been shaken.

Dayton, who was the driving force for getting a stadium deal through the Legislature, said Wednesday he hasn’t spoken with the Vikings’ owners since he raised concerns about the court ruling.

“I make no apologies for the positions we have taken,” the governor said on a Minnesota Public Radio broadcast from the State Fair. He said that assuming the review turns up nothing more serious than the New Jersey case, the stadium project will move ahead.

Dayton said the audit is essential to making sure the private financing for the stadium is sound.