Wilf Meets, Greets, Outlines The Future

In a wide-ranging interview session that lasted about 40 minutes, new Vikings owner Zygi Wilf discussed the executive structure of the team, adding two vice presidents, the state of the team, staff contracts, the stadium issue and his passion for football and winning.

New Vikings owner Zygi Wilf met with his staff Thursday morning for about 20 minutes, then talked with two separate contingents of the media in the afternoon.

Throughout his meetings, Wilf stressed a family atmosphere and consistency, echoing both themes publicly and privately.

The team announced Zygi as the chairman, his cousin Leonard Wilf as the vice chairman, and Zygi's brother Mark as the president. All three are part of the ownership group – Zygi saying that the "Wilf family is the majority owner" – and they are joined by limited partners David Mandelbaum, Alan Landis and Reggie Fowler. Mandelbaum and Landis are both East Coast businessmen, while Fowler's main businesses operations are in Arizona and Colorado.

The team also named Lester Bagley as its vice president of public affairs and stadium development and Kevin Warren its vice president of operations and legal counsel. Bagley was formerly the team's stadium consultant under a contract basis. Warren has been working with the ownership group for 14 months, and previously worked in the administration offices with the St. Louis Rams (1997-2001) and Detroit Lions (2001-03). Warren will handle legal, human resources and special projects for the Vikings.

"My family and the entire investment group is looking forward to having this team lead our organization and work to build a first-class operation on and off the field. We are all as focused on the start of the season as our fans across the world are," Zygi Wilf said.

Warren and his wife Greta will reside in Wayzata.

Wilf wore a purple and gold Vikings tie with a Norseman pin on his lapel, and his passion for football and pride in his ownership of an NFL franchise showed through in his first 40-minute session.

He spent Wednesday in Detroit – the site of January's Super Bowl – meeting other NFL owners and then made an appearance at the Viking Children's Fund golf tournament. He didn't play in the tournament, saying "I've given up golf for better things." He spent Wednesday evening meeting with different team personnel, including head coach Mike Tice, at the Rush Creek Golf Course in Maple Grove, working well into the evening.

He said he and Tice discussed "building on the theme of consistency" but that he needs "to have some time to get up to speed" before making any decisions about contract extensions for the coaching staff or any other employees. "The organization from the top is pretty much in shape," he said.

His board of directors currently consists of members of the ownership group, but Wilf said as he becomes more familiar with the community he would like to involve community leaders and Vikings alumni on the board.


Wilf said he was asked by the previous ownership if he would be willing to spend more money on player salaries in order to keep improving the team. He told reporters he would and he was enthusiastic to build the personnel.

"Economics will not be an overriding factor," he said of personnel decisions.

He declined to go into detail on his feelings of the Randy Moss trade, preferring to stay with topics involving the present and future, but he later admitted he had little input in that decision.

"We're moving forward," he said. "We've got a heck of a team."

Wilf met with safety Darren Sharper this morning and said he enjoyed his enthusiasm for the game. He later stressed on KFAN radio that he believes contenders are strong on both sides of the ball and that the Vikings now have the talent to compete for a title on defense, as well as offense.


Wilf met with legendary Vikings coach Bud Grant to discuss the idea of an outdoor, open-air stadium and said Grant told him of the advantages Metropolitan Stadium held for his teams before moving into the team's current Metrodome stadium in the early 1980s.

"I grew up enjoying the outdoor game," said Wilf, a former New York Giants fan. "Maybe we all have nostalgic feelings" about events of the past.

While he said he would prefer to see an open-air venue, he understands that in any stadium proposal there would be elements of a "controlled environment." His ownership group will visit other stadiums and take ideas from what they like most with each of them, and then they will attempt to incorporate those ideas into a new stadium in Minnesota.

The real estate mogul is looking to purchase large portions of land in the Anoka County area, land that could be used either for a new stadium or a business or residential development with or without a surrounding stadium. Either way, Wilf plans to buy land, saying that's what he does.

He expressed his appreciation for Anoka County's past efforts to work on a stadium plan and indicated he would reward their cooperation with continued efforts to find a public-private financing plan that could pass the state legislature. He wants the legislature to create a stadium authority for the Anoka area.

Wilf said he didn't plan on a new stadium that would be fully privately financed, estimating his contribution to a stadium would be somewhere in the one-third range of the total cost.

"The economics do not justify a privately financed stadium," he said.

Regardless of the financing structure, Wilf is also looking out for the football atmosphere.

"We would like to create a venue that is not only world-class, that is not just for games but for the whole game-day experience," he said, adding a short time later: "If we're stuck in the Metrodome, we're stuck in the Metrodome."


Wilf said he will buy a residence in the Twin Cities area and will be in Minnesota for training camp, every home game, every away game and will be in the locker room before and after games, win or lose.

Of his Vikings purchase and future commitment to Minnesota, he said: "We've never sold or very rarely sell. … I never intend to sell."

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