The Wilfs’ character, not their wealth, is key stadium issue

Much is being made these days about a New Jersey court’s ruling that the owners of the Minnesota Vikings, Zygi and Mark Wilf swindled a fellow investor in a real estate deal.

Suddenly, as if surprised, Dayton administration officials are worried that the Wilfs might have to pay so much to their former partner that they will end up defaulting on the stadium.

That concern is important only if one believes that somehow the Wilfs got control of the Vikings originally by spending a good portion of their net worth on the team.

We doubt that. For most of the owners of professional sports teams, their team is a play thing paid for by chump change. The National Football League vetted the Wilfs before they bought the Vikings. For the politicians to demand a detailed financial statement from the Wilfs will accomplish little more than ill will between them and the state.

That said, the court has ruled that, in at least one instance, these guys are shysters. Where the administration needs to be focusing its efforts isn’t on the Wilfs’ net worth, but on protecting the public’s interests when the thousands of construction decisions and trade-offs get made.

Will they use cheap steel that rusts out in 20 years, long after the Wilfs have sold the team? Will the building have adequate restroom facilities? What criteria are used to permit cost overruns?

Those are the questions the Dayton administration should be honing in on, not the Wilfs’ net worth.

If the Wilfs refuse to open up their books, that can be used as a negotiating tool, either to get the NFL to guarantee the Wilfs’ share in case of default, or to demand high quality and accountability in building the new stadium.

The New Jersey court sent a message that Minnesotans should interpret to be that the Wilfs can’t be trusted, not that they aren’t wealthy. Don’t worry about whether they have the money; the devil is in the details of the construction documents.