On the Vikings stadium 'windfall clause'

October, 8, 2013
10/08/13
10:50
PM ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- Among the more interesting points in the Vikings' new stadium lease is a clause that forces the Wilf family to give the state of Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis a share of the profits from any sale of the team before May 2022. According to an Associated Press story on the lease, which was approved last Thursday, Zygi and Mark Wilf would have to give over a quarter of the profits from the sale with the public.

The Wilfs reportedly paid $600 million to buy the Vikings from Red McCombs in 2005, and Forbes estimated the team's value at $1.007 billion in August. That would mean roughly $100 million for the public if the Vikings were to change hands now, and with the value of the team expected to skyrocket as the 2016 opening of the stadium approaches, it wouldn't be shocking to see the state and city in line for $100 million more if a sale were to occur several years down the road.

It would be interesting to know how much of the language in the "windfall clause," as the AP calls it, was finalized before interest spiked in the Wilfs' New Jersey lawsuit. The lease was finalized, of course, after New Jersey judge Deanna Wilson ordered an $84.5 million judgment against the Wilfs, and while the ruling certainly wasn't large enough to put a major dent in the Wilfs' finances, the lawsuit itself did put the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority in a more cautious state. The Wilfs stand to make much more money from a sale down the road, and will reap new revenues from the stadium's operations, but if the owners did have any thoughts of a quick sale, the MSFA wanted to ensure it would get something for the trouble of meeting its new bedfellows.

It's worth noting that two of the other three Minnesota professional sports franchises (the Timberwolves and Twins) are owned by local businessmen, and the third (the Wild) is owned by Wisconsin native Craig Leipold, who bought the team from its original, Minnesota-based ownership group. Minnesotans in general tend to be a tad leery of owners from outside the state, or at least the Midwest, and those sentiments weren't hard to detect in the local response to the Wilfs' lawsuit. Still, the lease ties the team -- and probably the Wilfs -- to the state for a long time, and the "windfall clause" is a provision for the scenario where Minnesotans exchange the owners they know for ones they might not.

Ben Goessling

ESPN Minnesota Vikings reporter

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