Wilf in September 2007
April 22, 1950
|Occupation||Real estate developer|
|Known for||Owner of the Minnesota Vikings|
|Net worth||$1.3 billion|
|Relatives||Mark Wilf (brother)|
Wilf was born in Germany on April 22, 1950. His parents, Joseph and Elizabeth Wilf, are both Holocaust survivors from Nazi occupied Poland. The Wilf family immigrated to the United States from Europe in the early 1950s and settled in Hillside, New Jersey. After a brief stint as used car salesmen, Joseph and his brother Harry Wilf began purchasing apartment buildings and renting units. Eventually, the brothers began building single-family homes and founded Garden Homes. A successful real estate developer, his two main family-run businesses, Garden Homes and Garden Commercial Properties, have constructed some 25,000 homes in 39 states across the country since their initial ventures; the two entities and their affiliates own and manage 25,000,000 square feet (2,300,000 m2) in retail and business property.
Wilf attended Fairleigh Dickinson University, earning a bachelor's degree in economics in 1971, and later graduated from New York Law School in Manhattan. President Richard Joel presented him with an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, from Yeshiva University in May 2010 at the university's 79th commencement. Zygi, along with his brother Mark Wilf, serve as trustees of Yeshiva University. He received an honorary degree at Fairleigh Dickinson's 69th Commencement Ceremony in May 2012.
After working as an attorney, Wilf joined the family business and became head of one of the company's affiliates, Garden Commercial Properties. Wilf has grown the company from four shopping centers in Northern New Jersey to over a hundred properties, including several large malls. In addition to the commercial properties, the Garden companies also own and manage 90,000 apartment units around the country.
Wilf and five partners purchased the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League from Red McCombs in 2005 for a reported US$600 million. Forbes estimates the 2014 value of the franchise at US$1.007 billion, or 21st of the 32 NFL teams.
For several years the Vikings and Wilf have stated that their former home, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was inadequate and had lobbied for a new stadium. In May 2012, the Minnesota Vikings moved closer to getting a new $975 million stadium after the state Senate approved a plan that relies heavily on public financing. Later that month the deal was signed by Gov. Mark Dayton and narrowly approved by the Minneapolis City Council, ending any speculation of relocation.
Trial for fraud and racketeering
On August 6, 2013, Wilf, along with his brother, Mark Wilf, and cousin, were found liable by a New Jersey court for breaking civil state racketeering laws and keeping separate accounting books to fleece former business partners of shared revenue. The presiding judge noted that Wilf had used organized crime like tactics to commit fraud against his business partners. In September the judge awarded the two business partner plaintiffs Ada Reichmann and Josef Halpern $84.5 million in compensatory damages, punitive damages and interest that the Wilfs must pay.
- New York Times: "Rachel Goodman, Jonathan Wilf" March 4, 2011
- "Front Office". vikings.com. National Football League. Retrieved 6 November 2010.
- Williams, Brandt (2005-05-25). "NFL owners approve Vikings sale to Wilf". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved 2007-02-19.
- Garden Homes
- G.R. Anderson, Jr., Eye of the Beholder, City Pages, January 3, 2007.
- "Yeshiva University's 79th Commencement". Yeshiva University.
- "Yeshiva University Trustees". Yeshiva University.
- "Fairleigh Dickinson University Holds 69th Commencement on May 15". Fairleigh Dickinson University. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
- Garden Commercial Properties
- Borzi, Pat (August 19, 2005). "Vikings' Owner Makes a Name for Himself". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-23.
- City Pages - March 1, 2012 -Vikings, Rybak, Dayton, pro-Vikes legislators finally unveil stadium plan
- Tom Goldstein "Vikings Stadium Proposal Isn't For The People", City Pages, March 14, 2012
- Horowitz, Ben (September 23, 2013). "Judge announces damages of $84.5 million against Wilfs in long-running lawsuit". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 30 January 2015.