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US Senate panel urges PGA Tour commissioner, LIV CEO to testify on controversial merger

US Senate panel urges PGA Tour commissioner, LIV CEO to testify on controversial merger
LIV Golf, the breakaway tour that started in 2022, shook up the golf establishment. (Photo: Ian Maule/Getty Images)

The invitation was extended on Wednesday to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan and LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman to testify at an 11 July hearing.

Democratic US Senator Richard Blumenthal, who chairs the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and the panel’s top Republican Ron Johnson invited them to appear.

“Our goal is to uncover the facts about what went into the PGA Tour’s deal with the Saudi Public Investment Fund and what the Saudi takeover means for the future of this cherished American institution and our national interest,” said Blumenthal.

“Americans deserve to know what the structure and governance of this new entity will be.”

Yasir Al-Rumayyan, LIV Golf

Head of the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, has been invited to a US Senate hearing to shed light on the merger with the PGA Tour. (Photo: James Gill – Danehouse/Getty Images)

A PGA Tour spokesman said the Tour looks “forward to appearing before the Senate subcommittee to answer their questions about the framework agreement” but did not specify if Monahan would appear.

The PGA spokesman added the Tour held discussions with players Tuesday night and is “working toward negotiating a final agreement that is in their best interest and ensures that the Tour leads any new venture.”

LIV declined to comment while the Public Investment Fund did not respond to a request for comment.

Blumenthal earlier this month asked the PGA Tour and LIV Golf for communications and records on their planned merger as part of an investigation, citing concerns about the Saudi government’s role in the deal and risks posed by a foreign government entity assuming control over the sport.

Jay Monahan, LIV Golf

Jay Monahan, PGA Tour Commissioner, has also been asked to explain to the US Senate why they went into partnership with the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund. (Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Read more in Daily Maverick: PGA-LIV Golf merger inquiry may lead to subpoenas, says senator

Last week, Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ron Wyden asked the Justice Department to open an antitrust investigation into the planned deal, saying they believe it would result in a monopoly over professional golf operations.

The Justice Department has been investigating the PGA Tour for trying to keep its players from defecting to LIV.

Greg Norman, LIV Golf

LIV Golf CEO & Commissioner Greg Norman acknowledges the crowd during the trophy presentation on day three of LIV Golf Adelaide at The Grange Golf Course on 23 April, 2023 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

The PGA Tour, DP World Tour and rival Saudi-backed LIV circuit, which had been involved in a bitter fight that split the sport, announced an agreement to merge and form one unified commercial entity.

The LIV Golf series is bankrolled by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIV). Critics have accused it of being a vehicle for the country to improve its reputation as it faces criticism of its human rights record.

Much of the backlash against PIV and LIV Golf centres on the alleged involvement of the Saudi Arabian government in human rights violations, including the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Reuters/DM

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