PGA Tour Bows to Saudi Rival in Shock Combination With LIV Golf
The PGA Tour and Saudi-backed rival LIV Golf are combining in a shock merger, ending a seismic dispute and underscoring how the Middle East kingdom’s money is increasingly influencing sports around the world.
“After two years of disruption and distraction, this is a historic day for the game we all know and love,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement.
LIV Golf, started in 2021 by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, gained fans by signing some of the sport’s biggest names. The companies said Tuesday’s deal would end all pending litigation, but didn’t disclose any further terms. As part of the agreement, the PIF is prepared to invest billions of new capital into the new entity, CNBC’s David Faber reported. The governor of the Saudi wealth fund Yasir Al Rumayyan, himself a keen golfer, will be chairman of the new entity.
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LIV Golf brought in several prominent golfers from the PGA Tour, including Phil Mickelson and Cameron Smith, with hefty sponsorship payments. Still, LIV struggled to find broadcast partners for its tournaments and gain revenue and more eyeballs.
LIV then sued the PGA Tour last year for allegedly engaging in monopolistic behavior by using restrictive rules intended to deprive golfers from playing in rival leagues. The PGA sought subpoenas to gather additional material to support its claims in its countersuit that LIV illegally pushed players to break contracts with the legacy US-based tour by offering them exorbitant sums of money. The case was expected to go to trial in May 2024.
The PGA Tour has billions of dollars in broadcast deals and numerous corporate sponsors, including FedEx, Citigroup, Charles Schwab and Rolex. LIV had argued that the PGA Tour’s power has frustrated its efforts to strike deals for broadcast rights and sponsorships.
Once the agreement becomes definitive, the PIF will consider how much investment is needed, Al-Rumayyan said in an interview on CNBC. He declined to get into specifics, other than the amount would be in the “billions” and would be what is needed to boost the sport.