April 18, 2024

PGA Tour Agrees to Merge With Saudi-Backed Rival LIV Golf

The PGA Tour and Saudi-backed rival LIV Golf have reached an agreement to merge, putting an end to their ongoing legal disputes and forming a larger golf enterprise. Under the deal, the commercial businesses and rights of both entities, including the PGA European Tour (DP World Tour), will be combined to establish a new for-profit company. LIV Golf is financially supported by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, controlled by the Saudi crown prince, and has faced antitrust lawsuits from the PGA Tour in recent times. The merger, announced on Tuesday, will resolve all pending litigation.

According to reports, the Saudi Public Investment Fund is prepared to invest billions of dollars into the new entity, although specific terms of the deal have not been disclosed. The agreement is subject to the approval of the PGA Tour policy board, as stated in a memo to players by Commissioner Jay Monahan, obtained by CNBC. Monahan expressed the need for further work to finalize the agreement but highlighted the transformative nature of the merger, emphasizing that the PGA Tour’s history, legacy, and competitive model would be strengthened for the future through collaborative investment from the Saudi fund.

Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Governor of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, stated that the new board, which he will chair, will carefully consider all proposals presented once the merger is completed, expected to be within a few weeks. The distribution of LIV Golf matches in the United States had only recently begun, thanks to an exclusive broadcast partnership with the CW Network. Nexstar Media Group, which owns 75% of the CW Network, confirmed that there would be no changes to the 2023 LIV Golf event schedule.

The PGA Tour’s global perspective on golf’s growth, particularly outside the United States, was highlighted by Commissioner Monahan. Despite tensions between the two organizations, Monahan believes that the game of golf will benefit from the merger. Previously, both entities had filed antitrust claims against each other. LIV Golf sued the PGA Tour for alleged anti-competitive practices, while the PGA Tour countersued, accusing LIV of stifling competition. These disputes arose after the PGA Tour banned players from participating in LIV Golf events, which led to high-profile golfers like Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson joining LIV Golf.

Phil Mickelson, who recently won the PGA Championship, expressed his excitement about the merger on Twitter. As part of the agreement, the organizations will establish a fair process for players who wish to reapply for membership with the PGA Tour or DP World Tour after the 2023 season concludes.

LIV Golf, which was launched in 2022, has faced controversies, criticism, and political intrigue in the United States. The Saudi-backed league has been accused of “sportswashing” to divert attention from Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations. Family members of 9/11 attack victims have protested LIV Golf events due to Saudi Arabia’s connections to the attacks. However, investigations did not find Saudi officials to be complicit in the attacks, although some Saudi nationals were linked to funding the terrorist group al-Qaeda.

Former President Donald Trump, who has hosted LIV Golf events at his golf courses, has defended the league. Trump falsely claimed that the truth about 9/11 has not been uncovered and previously predicted a merger between LIV and the PGA Tour. On his Truth Social platform, Trump celebrated the merger as “great news” for golf.

Overall, the merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf signifies a significant development in the world of golf, ending legal disputes and creating a more robust golf enterprise with the backing of the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

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