MORRISTOWN, N.J. (AP) — A judge in New Jersey on Monday ordered Minnesota Vikings owners Zygi and Mark Wilf and their cousin, Leonard Wilf, to pay $84.5 million to two former business partners they defrauded in a 1980s real estate deal.
The ruling from Superior Court Judge Deanne Wilson covers compensatory and punitive damages to plaintiffs Josef Halpern and Ada Reichmann, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/18lQxpf). It also includes a redistribution of real estate profits dating to the lawsuit's initial filing in 1992.
Wilson ruled last month that the Wilfs and their cousin committed fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty, and violated the state's civil racketeering laws. In a stinging rebuke, Wilson said then that Zygi Wilf demonstrated "bad faith and evil motive" in his trial testimony.
The Wilfs can appeal. Their attorneys were holding an early-evening conference call to comment on the ruling.
The Wilfs' New Jersey legal troubles raised concern that it could hamper construction of a new Vikings stadium. Zygi Wilf leads an ownership group, which includes Mark Wilf, that bought the Vikings in 2005 for $600 million.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton pushed hard for taxpayer funding of the stadium and often stood with the Wilfs at news conferences. But after Wilson's first ruling, Dayton said the lawsuit highlighted business practices by the Wilfs that "are far from the legal standards for doing business in Minnesota."
The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which is supervising the stadium project, quickly launched a review of the Wilfs' finances to ensure they could still meet the Vikings' $477 million commitment to the nearly $1 billion stadium.
That review wrapped up earlier this month and found the Wilfs should have no problem meeting their commitment even in the face of the heaviest possible fines. The attorney who conducted the review described the Wilfs' wealth as "significant."
They also are eligible for an NFL loan of up to $200 million, and the stadium legislation lets them receive money from naming rights on seat licenses for season-ticket holders.
Halpern, of Brooklyn, N.Y., and his sister Reichmann, of Toronto, had said the Wilfs cheated them out of their share of profits from a 764-unit apartment complex in Montville, N.J. Halpern had been the complex's longtime manager.
An attorney for Halpern did not immediately return an email from The Associated Press seeking comment on the ruling.