"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Are Wilfs in league with Hecker, Greenwood?

Zygi Wilf, Vikings owner
Can all the king's horses and all the king's men patch up the Minnesota Vikings' image problems now?
This isn't the kind of image problem that comes from losing. Wins and losses are a separate proposition from the raw business interests. It's that business angle that is drawing the purple operation into the forefront now. Not that the Vikings are ever far from the forefront.
The repetitiveness of the new stadium articles in the Star Tribune became annoying. What does it say about our society that we become so preoccupied by the interests of a sports team?
I was six years old when the Vikings came into existence. Before that we cheered for the Gophers. Rumor has it the Gophers still exist, struggling to try to show they can outperform the boys from Vermillion SD (those Coyotes of University of South Dakota).
The Gophers have a still-new stadium. The dividends of that new stadium in terms of competitiveness still seem to exist more in theory than practice. Coach Jerry Kill is "building his program." Keep the cliches coming.
Target Field for the Twins has been beneficial because baseball should be played outside. At some point we will arrive at a bridge too far in terms of demands for new sports stadiums. Hey, we're there now.
The new Vikings stadium (no spade of dirt turned yet) has followed a turbulent route most of the way. Let's add eggbeater to those troubled waters. Revelations now coming out about the family that owns the Vikings are causing us to step back, or should be. A critic might well call the Wilfs "unsavory" and not be accused of bias or meanness.
Zygmunt "Zygi" Wilf, age 63, bought this cash cow in 2005 for $600 million. These owners aren't in it to get good seats at games. They expect their investment to grow like the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. Only hardened souls need apply.
A judge in New Jersey has used words stronger than "hardened." We're not in Denny Hecker territory yet but who knows? Or, Harold W. Greenwood.
Will the Wilfs join those annals? The Wilfs' misfortunes are on a civil level now, not criminal. That's why the NFL has thus far spoken in gentle terms about the Wilfs, who BTW aren't alone in dubious legal waters. Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam faces criminal and civil allegations of fraud.
A judge has found that our Wilf family has engaged in the same kind of shady behavior that has Haslam dealing with a Federal indictment. The Wilfs may be in the clear in terms of criminal ramifications just because of the passage of time, i.e. statute of limitations. They have "stepped in it" with a case that is 21 years old.
Our legislature should be paying attention.
The following is an email I sent to our state representative, Jay McNamar, on Friday:
  
Hi Rep. McNamar - I am Brian Williams from Morris MN and I would like to know if you might be on board with an effort to call a "moratorium" on the new Vikings stadium, given recent discoveries about the Wilfs, and given the fact maybe we just need to take a new look at it.
I know the stadium will mean "jobs" for people, but these people could be put to work doing any number of things around Minnesota. Heaven knows we need work on streets, highways, bridges etc. The Vikings can stay in Minnesota if they want and play in the Metrodome. If they really want to leave, then I think us Minnesotans should be prepared for them leaving, and I am.

Rep. McNamar was kind enough to respond within an hour or two:
I too am concerned about what I've read concerning the Wilfs. I have learned to not make hasty decisions until all the facts are in. I'm going to wait until I get some more information before I make any decision. Thank you for expressing your concerns. 
- Jay

Thank you, Jay. An email to State Senator Torrey Westrom brought no answer. I held up on putting up this post hoping to get one.
I would guess legislators in their prudence are scrambling to deal with this matter. The Star Tribune is doing a turnabout from its cheerleading role to report on the messy business involving the Wilfs and its possible ramifications for the Taj Mahal type of stadium. To repeat: No spade of dirt has been turned yet.
Our legislature approved a publicly funded stadium in May of 2012.
Now we come to "Governor Goofy" - oh, excuse me, that was the nickname for Rudy Perpich. But let's not speak ill of the dead. Let's speak ill of Mark Dayton who has been way too much of a rah-rah man for the stadium. By extension he's a rah-rah man for the Wilfs and their interests. "Governor Knucklehead" is how a friend of mine referred to him Friday.
I'm a Democrat so I'd like to see a more sober, reasoned and patient approach from our governor. No need to don a Vikings jersey. The state's involvement is a business matter of immense gravity, to be considered on a plane entirely separate from the games and personalities.
Dayton has been called "the prime political force" in the drive for the new stadium. Of the new revelations about the Wilfs, Dayton said "I find it very, very concerning." (Two "verys" makes it official.)
The court ruling vs. the Wilfs is unrelated to the deal the state negotiated. The Sopranos - excuse me, the Wilfs - have said "the civil lawsuit will have no impact on the stadium project."
Writer Ted Sherman of the New Jersey Star-Ledger isn't so sure. Sherman wrote that the judge's harsh criticism is "reverberating" and "threatening the construction of a new football stadium."
We should be so fortunate. I have been a skeptic all along. Below is a permalink to a post I wrote in December of 2012, called "Still time to nix new Vikings stadium?"

My motive isn't to rain on a parade. Sometimes a parade just grows out of a sort of hysteria - a knee-jerk sort of hysteria.
We cannot as citizens of Minnesota just capitulate to the demands of wheeler-dealer types like the Wilfs.
The New Jersey legal matter has a laundry list of unflattering language directed at the Wilfs, such as "fraud, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, violation of the state's racketeering statute, and presentation of untruthful and inaccurate statements."
Hardly "Minnesota Nice." A Minnesotan might say it's "a heckuva deal." (Consult Howard Mohr.)
The Stadium Authority hasn't yet inked the final agreement for the new facility. It's a $975 million project with the state supplying $498 million.
Deanne Wilson is the New Jersey judge now excoriating the Wilfs. Unhinged, Judge Wilson said "the bad faith and evil motive were demonstrated in the testimony of Zygi Wilf himself."
I have written in the past that Zygi looks like "a straight man in a Three Stooges short." I wrote that purely in levity. Now let's make ol' Zygmunt a heavy out of film noir.
I wonder what kind of deal the Wilfs can strike with the University of Minnesota for the use of TCF Bank Stadium? Who do you suppose has the advantage there, the "Sopranos" or an entity that has shown it has trouble making money from alcohol sales?
The paperwork is done for the Vikings stadium deal. The responsible parties for the state still have leverage, though. We are awaiting at least one "John Hancock" to be applied.
Vikings official Lester Bagley (vice president of Public Affairs, apparently no relation to The Unknown Comic) was too hasty and impulsive (or nervous?) in saying "(the Wilfs' legal woe) is a private business matter and involves a business dispute, but it will not impact the Vikings or the stadium program." (I once had a boss who didn't like the use of "impact" as a verb.)
The Washington Post suggested the judge's ruling "won't affect the team's finances." Silly rabbit, the owner's assets are the team's finances.
The plaintiffs are seeking more than $50 million in damages, and the disaffected judge is talking about triple damages. Let's hear a "whoa Nellie!" from Keith Jackson.
Indeed, Zygi's interests could take a hit. Our new Taj Mahal is slated to open in 2016 - quite a ways off yet. "Governor Knucklehead's " newfound assertiveness might cause delay and/or reflection, which might actually cause him to yank off that Vikes jersey.
Ol' Knucklehead now urges a fact-check of the Wilfs' statements before any final signature signing. He says the judge's comments paint a picture of doing business "far from the legal standards for doing business in Minnesota."
I would hope "bad faith and evil motive" contradict the values of all states.
Judge Wilson has said in court "I do not believe I have seen one single financial statement that is true and accurate."
The aggrieved parties, i.e. the Wilfs' business partners claimed the Wilfs systematically cheated them out of their fair share of revenues from Rachel Gardens, a 764-unit apartment complex in Montville NJ, by running what amounted to "organized crime-type activities" in their bookkeeping practices, that gave the Wilfs a disproportionate share of the income.
Our state's politicos aren't in league with this type of people. Our politicos didn't even know who was trumpeting the unequivocal benefits of e-pulltabs. They were clueless too about the Wilfs' longstanding legal stew of troubles.
Governor Knucklehead made his sharp statement in response, but he didn't face the media.
Our politicos could have learned about that stew in the spring of 2012, employing a simple Google alert. This revelation would have come two weeks before the legislature passed the public financing portion of the stadium plan, a plan we now see as riddled with problems. Maybe we were too mesmerized by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell coming to Minnesota.
Maybe Governor Knucklehead was too eager to pull on that Vikings jersey and do that dance next to an avowed Republican - that scene appearing on page 1 of our Strib.
Maybe our politicos got sort of lost or dazed among the maniacs with faces painted purple running around the state capitol, surely causing curiosity among foreign visitors. "Strangers in a strange land," indeed.
Maybe we should quote George W. Bush: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice. . . (whatever)"
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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