The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 3, 2013

Krohn: Pity the poor Wilfs

Vikings owners say court is "anti-wealth"


The Mankato Free Press

---- — Zygi Wilf wants people to stop hating him because he's rich.

How rich is he? Well, he doesn't want to tell anyone that, but suffice to say he's rich enough for people to hate.

You might remember the Viking's owner has some problems in New Jersey, where a judge has ordered him to pay some $85 million for defrauding some businesses partners. The judge also ordered him to disclose his family's net worth.

To which Wilf accused the court of an ‘anti-wealth bias.’ In a legal memorandum, the Wilfs' attorney said the judge "embraced an anti-wealth bias that gave undue weight to public curiosity. [The] trial court repeatedly commented that wealthy individuals like the Wilfs who work in a business that has high visibility must accept unwarranted invasions of privacy."

The attorney said the family "should not be forced to reveal private financial information that others working in less public endeavors would not be required to reveal."

I don't know if the judge has an anti-wealth bias, but she did kind of call them liars. "I do not believe I have seen one single financial statement that is true and accurate," she said of the Wilfs in the long legal battle she presided over.

It's curious that the Wilfs are so jealous of their privacy but decided to buy a NFL team. The NFL is the highest profile entertainment show on earth, a group that thrives on public attention and seeks the public's tax money to help pay for their stadiums.

The Wilfs aren't the only rich people who aren't feeling the love these days. When they talked about raising taxes on the very rich in Minnesota last year many of the wealthy were feeling picked on, targeted for being rich and successful, or if not successful, just rich.

The state eventually settled on a tax rate of just under 10 percent for the richest Minnesotans. In the first half of the 1900s the tax rate on the rich mostly ranged from 15 percent to 94 percent. I'm not sure if 10 percent is cruel and unusual, but nothing says "we don't like you" like a 94 percent tax rate.

There's always been some animosity toward wealth and it gets more intense during tough economic times or when the nation's balance of wealth gets out of wack, as it is today with the top 10 percent holding 80 percent of the money — an income inequality not seen since the early 1900s, which is the time they started taxing the bejeezers out of the rich.

Sometimes, even rich people don't like rich people. Lady Nancy Astor, who had scads of wealth and was a renowned socialite, said "The only thing I like about rich people is their money."

In this job, you end up being around plenty of very wealthy people. My experience is that their likability or lack thereof come at about the same ratio as the rest of the population.

Most are nice enough, some are wonderful, caring people and some are slugs.

It's not that people hate the rich. It's the rich who get caught cheating and asking for handouts and then claim they're being picked on and ask for privacy that people dislike.

Tim Krohn can be contacted at tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com or 344-6383.