Senator asks LIV Golf, PGA Tour leaders for records on merger
WASHINGTON (AP) — The leader of a Senate subcommittee is demanding the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s LIV Golf present records about negotiations that led to their new agreement and plans for what golf will look like under the arrangement.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., sent letters Monday to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and LIV CEO Greg Norman spelling out the “serious questions regarding the reasons for and terms behind the announced agreement.”
Blumenthal, who is chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said he also wanted to hear the tour’s plans to retain its tax-exempt status.
Last week, LIV and the tour stunned the golf world by agreeing to merge the PGA Tour and European tour with the Saudi golf interests, while also dropping all lawsuits between the parties. The governor of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which bankrolls LIV, will join the PGA Tour board of directors and lead a new business venture as its chairman. The PGA Tour itself will remain a tax-exempt entity.
It was a move expected to receive scrutiny from federal regulators and lawmakers, and the launch of a Senate investigation is among the first dominoes to fall.
The agreement announced last week was to combine the golf-related businesses of Saudi’s Public Investment Fund — which includes LIV Golf — with those of the PGA Tour and European tour. That would be a new for-profit company still to be named.
Among the uncertainties is how LIV Golf goes forward after 2023. PIF’s governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, is to be chairman of the new venture, with Monahan as CEO and two PGA Tour board members joining them on an executive committee.
In his letters to Monahan and Norman, Blumenthal wrote about the skepticism critics hold over the Saudis’ intent “to use investments in sports to further the Saudi government’s strategic objectives.”
“Critics have cast such Saudi investments in sports as a means of “sportswashing” — an attempt to soften the country’s image around the world — given Saudi Arabia’s deeply disturbing human rights record at home and abroad,” the letter said.
Blumenthal asked for a sweeping set of documents — essentially all communications between LIV and the tour beginning in October 2021 through the present.
Al-Rumayyan said last week that Norman was not apprised of the deal until shortly before it was announced.