Investigation of Vikings owners near completion

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority is almost through with its review of the Vikings and their ownership group, and construction of the team’s new stadium is expected to go on as planned.

MSFA chair Michele Kelm-Helgen said in a statement Wednesday that “based on the information received to date, we have indications that the team will have the financial capability to move forward with the stadium project.”

That ability was called into question in early August when a New Jersey judge found Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and two of his family members had illegally withheld agreed-upon revenue from a pair of their real estate partners. The findings in the 21-year-old civil case prompted a governor-backed, MSFA-helmed audit of the Wilfs’ legal and financial standings and the team’s finances.

The Vikings are on the hook for $477 million of the $975 million venue, scheduled for completion in time for the 2016 football season. They’ll play in the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium the next two seasons while the Metrodome’s replacement is being erected.

By last Wednesday, the team had provided the MSFA and its investigators with most of the data necessary for the audit but refused to negotiate and sign off on the stadium’s use and development agreements until the review was complete. In order for the previously-scheduled early-November groundbreaking to take place, those documents must be ratified by Sept. 15 — also the deadline for completion of the “due diligence.”

Now, it appears the investigation could conclude sooner.

Following a closed meeting of the MSFA commissioners Wednesday, Kelm-Helgen said the report is expected to be finalized and released sometime next week. That would give the sides at least a few days to hash out any outstanding issues on the use (lease) and development (construction) accords.

“We have almost all the information, both financial and legal, that we need to finalize the due diligence review,” Kelm-Helgen said. “While the preliminary update given today shows substantial progress, Dorsey and FTI (the litigators working on the audit) will have to wait for all of the requested information in order to complete their final report.”

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