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Tags: pga | liv golf | senate

PGA-LIV Golf Merger Under Spotlight in Senate

PGA-LIV Golf Merger Under Spotlight in Senate
LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman greets Mito Pereira of Torque GC on the driving range before the second round of LIV Golf Andalucía on July 1, 2023 in San Roque, Spain. (Scott Taetsch/AP)

Wednesday, 12 July 2023 06:04 AM EDT

U.S. and Saudi officials discussed proposals to completely transform professional golf as they negotiated the biggest merger in the sport's history, a trove of documents released Tuesday showed.

Among the items on the table in the talks between the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia's LIV Golf were the firing of two-time British Open champion Greg Norman as LIV boss and a new "World Golf Series" that would climax in the kingdom.

The communications, released by the U.S. Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations at the start of a hearing into the controversial tie-up, gave the most detailed picture yet of how the deal might look.

Saudi's Public Investment Fund (PIF) -- which finances LIV Golf -- did not ultimately agree to the PGA Tour's request to fire Norman but the push for his ouster underscored the radical nature of the negotiations.

The proposed merger has prompted antitrust concerns, while critics of the Saudi-backed golf series have cited human rights abuses by the regime, including the murder of a US-based journalist critical of the royals.

Negotiations are still underway and it could be months before the contours of a final agreement take shape.

But Senator Richard Blumenthal, the panel's chairman, shared a summary of the discussions alongside 265 pages of emails, WhatsApp messages and memos submitted by the PGA Tour and LIV Golf ahead of the hearing.

They show how the insurgent LIV Golf promised to stop poaching stars from the PGA Tour in exchange for a say in the running of the sport and a share in media rights.

Also on the table was a plan to give top-ranking PGA stars Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy ownership stake in LIV Golf teams, with a requirement that they participate in at least 10 LIV Golf events a year.

Blumenthal urged the PGA Tour to reject the deal, arguing they could still "stand up against 'sportswashing,' against the Saudi monarchy, against the hundreds of billions of dollars."

"There is something that stinks about this path that you're on right now because it is a surrender. And it is all about the money and that's the reason for the backlash," he said.

The communications did not reveal the size of the potential Saudi investment but PGA Tour board member Jimmy Dunne -- a key architect of the deal -- told senators it would be "north of $1 billion."

PGA Tour Chief Operating Officer Ron Price said the organization had sought to end a damaging legal battle between the rival leagues and had been left with little choice but to secure a deal.

LIV Golf and the PGA Tour dropped lawsuits against each other that were set for May 2024 trials and could have revealed many financial details about the PIF and tour.

A 10-member policy board must approve the deal announced last month by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and Saudi investment fund's governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan for it to be finalized.

Blumenthal had requested testimony from Norman, Monahan and Al-Rumayyan. Norman and Al-Rumayyan said they were unable to testify because of scheduling conflicts.

The hearing came after Randall Stephenson resigned his PGA Tour Policy Board position, saying he could not support the deal -- "particularly in light of the US intelligence report concerning Jamal Khashoggi in 2018."

Washington Post journalist Khashoggi was murdered in 2018 by Saudi agents acting with the approval of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's de facto ruler, according to US intelligence.

© AFP 2024


StreetTalk
U.S. and Saudi officials discussed proposals to completely transform professional golf as they negotiated the biggest merger in the sport's history, a trove of documents released Tuesday showed.
pga, liv golf, senate
573
2023-04-12
Wednesday, 12 July 2023 06:04 AM
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