SBJ/June 20 - 26, 2005/Other News

Wilf’s purchase of Vikes includes $190M bank loan

Zygmunt “Zygi” Wilf borrowed $190 million to finance the purchase of the Minnesota Vikings, which he formally acquired last week.

The $600 million purchase price includes $125 million of assumed debt that the club had previously borrowed, meaning of the $475 million of equity that was necessary, Wilf borrowed 40 percent.

Sumitomo Mitsui Bank Corp. and Citigroup lent the New Jersey commercial real estate mogul the new cash, and the two banks plan to syndicate the loan later this summer. Lead banks frequently slice up loans and sell the pieces to other financial institutions, a process called syndication, in an effort to minimize risk.

Wilf went to Sumitomo Mitsui and Citigroup.
“We think this deal will be well-received by the market,” said Jim Weinstein, vice president at Sumitomo.

The original $125 million of debt is secured by the team, and the new loan is secured by the limited partners’ interests in the club.

In addition to Wilf, the new ownership group includes his brother Mark, his cousin Leonard and two other East Coast developers, Alan Landis and David Mandelbaum. Also in the group is Reggie Fowler, the Arizona businessman who originally led the group until he was unable to come up with the cash to close the deal.

Wilf shifted into the lead role early last month, leaving little time to close against an early June deadline set in the contract Fowler signed with outgoing owner Red McCombs.

“Our challenge once the group was changed was we had 30 days to close the deal,” said Marty Klepper, partner with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which counseled Wilf. “That is an extremely short period; you usually need 90 days. We closed it in 20 days after the NFL approval.”

For his part, a harried Wilf, speaking the day the deal closed, declined to comment on the financing and said he was still being brought up to speed on the major issues confronting the league, such as revenue sharing.

If the revenue disparity question is not settled, it could lead to a problem reaching a new labor deal.

But an NFL owner for just a few hours, Wilf gave this prediction: “I am not expecting a labor disturbance.”

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