Coming from Poland to the United States after surviving the Holocaust, the family of Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has become one of the most successful in North American sports. Since purchasing the NFL franchise in 2005, Wilf has continued to help reshape the Vikings’ future while delving into other professional sporting endeavors.
History of the Minnesota Vikings
Founded as an expansion team in 1960, the Vikings’ franchise has enjoyed success over its time, but also its fair share of failure. The Vikings are one of just three teams (Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Rams) to have played in a conference championship game in every decade since 1970.
However, they are the only NFL franchise with a combined winning regular-season record (516–442–11) not to win a Super Bowl. Additionally, the Vikings hold the NFL record for the most playoff losses with 30 in 51 total games.
In the 61 years since their establishment, the Vikings have captured the divisional championship 20 times, most recently in 2017. The Vikings have also appeared in three Super Bowls during their history. All of which took place in four years (1973-1976), including back-to-back appearances (and losses) to the Steelers in 1973 and 1974.
There are 15 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who played the majority or the entirety of their careers with the Vikings. This includes Cris Carter, Fran Tarkenton, Paul Krause, Steve Hutchinson, Randy Moss, John Randle, and coach Bud Grant. Additionally, seven other Hall of Famers made brief stops in Minnesota at one point in their careers, such as Brett Favre, Warren Moon, and Morten Andersen.
Who is the Vikings owner?
Zygmunt “Zygi” Wilf has owned the Vikings since he purchased the team from founder Red McCombs in 2005. Zigi, along with his brother Mark and four other partners, purchased the team for $600 million. According to Forbes, the estimated value of the franchise was $2.95 billion in 2020. This ranked the Vikings as the 17th most valuable NFL franchise at the time.
Zygi Wilf is the son of Joseph and Elizabeth Wilf. They are both Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust when Poland was invaded and occupied during WWII. The Wilfs, with their infant son, immigrated to the United States and landed in Birmingham, New Jersey, on July 4, 1950.
Wilf is one of three NFL owners who were not born in the United States. The others being Kim Pegula (Buffalo Bills, born in South Korea) and Shahid Khan (Jacksonville Jaguars, born in Pakistan).
In 1971, Wilf attended Fairleigh Dickinson University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. Later, he earned a J.D. degree from New York Law School in Manhattan.
After working as an attorney, Wilf joined the family business (Garden Homes) and became head of one of the company’s affiliates, Garden Commercial Properties. Wilf made the majority of his estimated $5.3 billion net worth in the commercial retail estate market.
When he took over the company, GCP had four chopping centers in the Northern New Jersey area. Now, the company has more than 25 million square feet of commercial real estate under management. Anchor tenants at its properties include Home Depot, Lowe’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Walmart. In addition to the commercial properties, the Garden companies also own and manage over 90,000 apartment units around the country.
Zygi Wilf was integral in the construction of the U.S. Bank Stadium
For several years, both Wilf and the Vikings were vocal about their displeasure towards the current state of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and its inadequate facilities. Rumors quickly began to swirl that the Vikings could relocate shortly if a new stadium could not be worked out.
Thankfully for both the Vikings and Minneapolis area, the two sides were able to come to a resolution as Gov. Mark Dayton signed the deal, which the Minneapolis City Council approved in May 2012.
As of March 2015, the overall budget was estimated to be $1.061 billion, with $348 million from the state of Minnesota, $150 million from the city of Minneapolis, and $551 million from the team and private contributions.
The Vikings are not the only professional sports team Zygi Wilf owns
While Wilf is most notably known as the Vikings’ owner, he also has his hands in the world of soccer.
In August 2017, Zygi, along with his brother Mark and cousin Leonard, became backers of Nashville’s bid to become the next expansion city for the MLS. That December, Nashville was officially awarded the expansion slot and played their inaugural season in 2020. The trio was also a part of Minneapolis’ bid to become an expansion site for the ever-growing MLS. However, this was not the last time they would be directly involved with an MLS club.
In May 2021, it was announced that Zygi, Mark, and Leonard were purchasing the MLS Orlando City SC. Additionally, they purchased the Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League, and Exploria Stadium, from their ownership group led by Brazilian entrepreneur Flávio Augusto da Silva. According to reports, the total acquisition price is between $400-$450 million. Due to this purchase, they need to sell their minority stakes in Nashville SC.