CHICAGO — A judgment in a New Jersey civil lawsuit shouldn't impede the ability of the Minnesota Vikings' owners to finance their contribution to a $975 million partially bond-financed professional football stadium, a review ordered by the public agency overseeing the project found.
The family that owns the team may face a criminal probe in the future over the case, but that finding was not sufficient to raise red flags over the team's financing package, the review found.
The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority formally released the results of the examination Friday. Preliminary findings were previously released. The team halted negotiations with the authority over final use and lease agreements after Gov. Mark Dayton requested the audit.
Minneapolis and the state are covering $498 million of the cost with the team responsible for the rest, with $200 million coming from a National Football League loan.
The authority hired Dorsey & Whitney LLP and FTI Consulting to conduct an examination of Zygi Wilf's family finances and their ability to meet their stadium commitment. The move was triggered after a New Jersey judge found Wilf liable in a lawsuit there for fraud, breach of contract, and violations of the state's civil racketeering statutes involving a real estate transaction.
The examination did note one risk. Under New Jersey statutes when punitive damages are awarded the court must notify the local and state prosecutors for investigations as to whether a criminal act may have occurred.
"The review is based on what we know through today's date. There is no way for us to know the outcome of any future investigation at this time," said authority board chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen. "It is significant however, that we have received assurances from the NFL today that they are committed to fulfill the obligations under the stadium use agreement and have a team play in Minnesota for the duration of the stadium use agreement."
"We have reviewed all of the facts concerning the Wilfs' financing and litigation, and with assurances from the NFL, we have addressed the risks we have found. I feel confident moving forward with the construction of the new stadium," she added.
Ground-breaking is set for November and the stadium is expected to be completed for the 2016 season. The state will begin tapping in the coming months some piece of the up to $498 million of borrowing capacity approved by the Legislature to finance the city and state's share of the project. The state would issue appropriation-backed bonds.