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The PGA and Saudi Tour patch differences by creating a monopoly.

Looks like the Saudis get to create a monopoly, buy off the PGA leadership and tell Biden to go f-ck himself.



The PGA and LIV Gold Merger Is the Revenge of the Saudi ‘Pariah’

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wins again.


By The Editorial Board, WSJ

Updated June 6, 2023 7:07 pm ET



Is Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman trolling President Biden? Over the weekend Riyadh cut its oil production to lift prices. On Tuesday the Saudi-backed LIV Golf announced a merger with the PGA Tour and Europe’s DP World Tour. Call it the revenge of the “pariah,” to borrow Mr. Biden’s epithet for MBS.


The golf tour merger may rank as the biggest in the sporting world and will benefit all parties involved. Golfers will no longer have to choose between playing in the LIV and other tour tournaments. The PGA and DP World Tour will lose a formidable competitor, and the Crown Prince will have help to rehabilitate his international standing.


Saudi Arabia made a splash last summer by launching the LIV, backed by its $620 billion Public Investment Fund (PIF), to “reinvigorate golf” with team competition, more prize money and signing bonuses. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan accused the Saudis of trying to “buy the game of golf,” and suspended top golfers who signed with the rebel league.


Golfers groused about the PGA’s punishment and backed an antitrust lawsuit by LIV against the PGA, which counter-sued. It’s hard to feel sorry for players making eight figures. But the Justice Department’s antitrust cops launched an investigation into whether the PGA was manipulating the sport’s labor market.


The LIV antitrust suit hit the skids this year as it lost support from golfers who didn’t want to be deposed. Nor did Saudi officials. Now the PGA and LIV have decided it’s in their mutual business interest to settle their feud.


The tours will drop their litigation. Golfers will no longer have to choose between the tours. LIV golfers who were suspended will be allowed to re-apply with the PGA at the end of this season. The Public Investment Fund will make a capital infusion into the new entity, which will be chaired by its head Yasir Al-Rumayyan. Mr. Monahan will stay on as CEO.


But the biggest winner may be the Crown Prince, who has been seeking to improve his reputation in the wake of the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 by Saudi assassins. While campaigning in 2019, Mr. Biden promised to isolate and ostracize MBS, despite his value as an ally in the rough Middle East. MBS has been returning the disfavor ever since.


MBS is using the Kingdom’s massive oil-funded sovereign wealth fund to buy businesses and influence in the West. In 2021 the PIF purchased the English Premier League soccer club Newcastle United. It has invested in Saudi luxury resorts to draw wealthy Western tourists, including golf courses where one LIV tournament is played.


Most LIV tournaments are in the U.S. with three at Donald Trump’s courses. Take that, Joe. The PIF has also bankrolled U.S. luxury electric-vehicle manufacturer Lucid Motors, which is constructing a factory in the Kingdom. The PIF revealed this spring that it has invested in many top U.S. venture capital and private-equity funds.


Meantime, the Saudis are making decisions about oil production without concern for U.S. interests. Its latest cut will benefit Russia, which has been ramping up exports. In March Saudi Aramco invested in Chinese refineries, which process Russian crude that the West has sanctioned. It has floated selling oil to China in yuan, a dig at the U.S. dollar.


MBS sidelined the President in April by agreeing to a rapprochement with Iran brokered by China. On Monday the Crown Prince welcomed Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro to discuss how to strengthen their relations. Pariahs of the world are uniting while Mr. Biden diminishes America’s foreign influence with a war on U.S. oil and gas production.


Mr. Biden’s antitrust cops could try to block the golf tour merger, but it’s hard to see who will be harmed by it. The President would be wiser to follow the PGA’s lead and patch things up with the Saudis.


PGA Tour, LIV Golf Agree to Merge

The stunning move ends the divide that has dominated the sport for the last year


The PGA Tour and LIV Golf have agreed to a merger.

By Andrew Beaton and Louise Radnofsky, WSJ

Updated June 6, 2023 7:19 pm ET


The PGA Tour and LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed upstart that sent the industry into chaos when it teed off last year, have agreed to a stunning merger that ends the divide that has dominated the sport for the last year.


The deal weds the Saudi money and the PGA Tour name and connections after months of bruising litigation and sharply traded accusations. It also consolidates the biggest assets in professional golf—at a time when golf bodies including the Tour are being investigated by the Justice Department for antitrust violations.


Now, the same Saudi gushers that have funded LIV will be pooled with the PGA Tour’s existing revenue streams, giving the combined entity vast new resources for unnamed future investments. It effectively makes the Saudis investors in U.S. golf’s legacy powerhouse—a move that carries risk for the PGA Tour, which has spent the past year lashing out at its rival as LIV paid hundreds of millions of dollars to stars like Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka to persuade them to defect.


The parties said that the agreement combines the golf-related business from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund with the commercial and business rights of the PGA Tour and a third circuit, the DP World Tour, into a new, collectively owned for-profit entity. The PGA Tour, a non-profit, will continue to exist but essentially as a governance body while it contributes its money-making arms to the new, unnamed venture.


Critically, for both sides, the parties also said that the merger will end the litigation between the parties, which have been at odds in court and in the court of public opinion since LIV’s launch.


“I recognize that people are going to call me a hypocrite. Anytime I said anything, I said it with the information that I had at that moment, and I said it based on someone that’s trying to compete for the PGA Tour and our players,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said Tuesday. “I accept those criticisms. But circumstances do change.”


The move marks a jarring evacuation plan for two parties that had looked set to continue suing and countersuing each other into the ground, if necessary. The Kingdom had craved entry into the golf world, and believed the Tour was illegally using monopoly power to block it. LIV was accused of trying to use the sport’s popularity to whitewash the country’s record on human rights, and Monahan, just a year ago, dubbed LIV “a foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars in an attempt to buy the game of golf.”


PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan will serve as chief executive. The Tour will appoint a majority of the board and hold a majority voting interest in the combined business.

The new, unnamed commercial entity will be chaired by Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of Saudi’s Public Investment Fund. Monahan will serve as chief executive. The Tour will appoint a majority of the board and hold a majority voting interest in the combined business.


The talks between the two sides were so tightly held that LIV chief executive Greg Norman was informed of the development in a conference call shortly before Monahan and Al-Rumayyan recorded an interview talking about it. Players and sponsors also weren’t consulted on the deal for confidentiality reasons, a person familiar with the matter said.


“I love finding out morning news on Twitter,” tweeted two-time major champion Collin Morikawa, one of the prominent players who stayed with the Tour.


And the sudden willingness of the PGA Tour to take money they had derided drew bipartisan skepticism from Washington lawmakers.


“I wonder if the PGA Tour—having wrapped itself in the flag—invited 9/11 families to the big announcement? I guess not, because money was worth more than principle, apparently,” said Texas Republican congressman Chip Roy, who had championed the Tour’s fight against LIV.


Roy’s sentiment was echoed by groups representing 9/11 victims’ families, who blame the Kingdom for its role in the terrorist attacks. Most of the terrorists were Saudi nationals, but the country has denied any involvement.


“We thought we had a true symbiotic relationship with the PGA Tour,” said Brett Eagleson, president of the group 9/11 Justice. “The PGA Tour bashed the Kingdom over its human rights, it used our talking points to do it. Now, we have to wonder, did they do that just to sweeten their deal?”


Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said in an interview that Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, had urged him and other lawmakers to scrutinize the national security implications of the Saudi project.


“They came to my office and told me it would be a moral outrage for Saudi Arabia to have an ownership stake in a major American sport,” he said Tuesday. “The announcement speaks for itself as to what really matters.”


Murphy said the statement made clear what the priorities were: “It’s all about the money.”


The deal also comes after LIV had shown scant public evidence of financial success—though it continued to represent a formidable opponent in court. While the Saudis had pledged billions in its effort to disrupt golf, its sponsorships were scant and when it finally landed a TV deal in the U.S., its events on the CW Network drew poor viewership.


It remains to be seen how influential players, many of whom rebuffed lucrative offers potentially worth tens or hundreds of millions from LIV in order to stick with the PGA Tour, feel about the agreement. Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, who had been one of LIV’s staunchest critics, has a previously scheduled press conference set for Wednesday ahead of this week’s PGA Tour event. Monahan described his meeting Tuesday with players as “heated.”


The 2023 LIV Golf schedule will continue as planned, according to a memo sent by Monahan to employees reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The memo says the sides will “work cooperatively to establish a fair and objective process for any players who desire to re-apply for membership with the PGA Tour” after this season.


“Today is a momentous day for your organization and the game of golf as a whole,” Monahan wrote in the memo. The memo added that there “are many details to work through as we develop a definitive agreement, which will ultimately require PGA Tour Policy Board approval.”


Monahan’s memo also said that the deal prohibits any further recruitment of PGA Tour or LIV Golf members, and that the Tour will conduct a “comprehensive evaluation of LIV Golf and determine how best to integrate team golf into the professional game.”


Many aspects of the new venture still have to be hashed out. Monahan, in his memo, said “there is much work to be done to get us from a framework agreement to a definitive agreement.”


Appearing side-by-side on CNBC, Monahan and Al-Rumayyan said they were confident they could work out what they characterized as details. “I think it’s a matter of weeks,” Al-Rumayyan said.


“The tension’s gone, and these are things we’re going to solve together,” Monahan said, adding that he was confident he would not face backlash from PGA Tour players.


The PGA Tour and several other golf entities—including Augusta National Golf Club, which puts on the Masters, and the United States Golf Association, which runs the U.S. Open—have been facing an antitrust investigation by the U.S. Justice Department over their response to the LIV challenge, The Wall Street Journal first reported.


Now, they are seeking a fresh start and an end to their legal woes by consolidating with their rival. On CNBC Monahan brushed off concerns that the merger could trigger fresh antitrust scrutiny.


“Every single player in men’s professional golf is going to have more opportunity and growth. As we look to contribute to the women’s game I would expect the same, and as an industry, we’re going to grow our industry. I think this is all a positive on that front,” Monahan said.


The Department of Justice declined to comment on the announcement.


The pair who had once traded harsh criticisms and legal threats on Tuesday offered warm words for each other in their joint interview—with Al-Rumayyan saying that the fund was committing billions to the new venture on the basis that it saw it as an investment, not a subsidy, and Monahan saying that the Saudis were bringing golf “an opportunity we’ve never had before.”


“To have this capital, at this point in time, with the strength of this game, there’s just, there’s so much opportunity,” the PGA Tour commissioner said.



The men said that the deal had been worked out over lunch meetings in London —and a round of golf. Not included in the discussions, Al-Rumayyan indicated on CNBC, was Norman. Instead, Al-Rumayyan said, Norman had been notified along with other stakeholders on a group call shortly before he and Monahan gave the interview.


Even before LIV Golf’s first tournament a year ago, the circuit was embroiled in controversy. In inflammatory comments, superstar Mickelson referenced Saudi Arabia’s killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the country’s “horrible record on human rights” in comments published by the golf outlet Fire Pit Collective last February. But Mickelson said he would consider joining LIV nonetheless because it was a “once-in-a lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”


The backlash from those comments led top golfers to publicly declare their allegiances to the PGA Tour. Superstar McIlroy called LIV “dead in the water” at that time.


But LIV reemerged on life support. When it played its first event last year, Dustin Johnson headlined the first wave of players to sign on—along with Mickelson, who became one of the first golf stars to sign with the new tour, receiving an eye-popping compensation package estimated to run to hundreds of millions of dollars.


While LIV presented reputational concerns for the players who signed on, a group that grew to include major champions such as Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith, it also offered fabulous wealth. Its tournaments, which include a team element, paid out record prize funds, in addition to the lucrative appearance fees just for joining.


The PGA Tour, meanwhile, banned players who joined, saying they had violated their contracts. So when anyone defected to the rebel tour, they had committed themselves to being on one side or other in the fight—there was no straddling the line.


Players later sued over their bans, in what eventually transformed into a direct legal confrontation between LIV and the PGA Tour. While LIV accused the Tour of violating antitrust law by behaving like a monopolist, the Tour later countersued saying the upstart had interfered with its business dealings.


The sprawling litigation threatened ugly revelations for both sides. In recent months, PIF had been vigorously trying to avoid being subject to discovery and having Al-Rumayyan subject to deposition by claiming sovereign immunity—while LIV accused the Tour of hiring consultants to secretly coordinate criticism of the Saudi circuit from families of people who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.


The Tour has also spent aggressively in its efforts to stave off its new rival. In addition to the battalions of consultants and lawyers both sides armed themselves with, the Tour had upped the purses at its events and adopted format changes for certain events—some of which reflected LIV’s format.


—Mark Maremont and Dion Nissenbaum contributed to this article.


Write to Andrew Beaton at andrew.beaton@wsj.com and Louise Radnofsky at louise.radnofsky@wsj.com


The PGA Tour Partners With Its Nemesis LIV. The Money Wins Again.

An allegedly righteous battle for the future of golf ends in a staggering merger


Jason Gay, WSJ

June 6, 2023 1:45 pm ET


Money wins.


It’s a pithy line from magnate Logan Roy in the media opera “Succession,” and it’s never been more apt in the business of sports than it is today, as the PGA Tour announces a merger with LIV, a Saudi-funded rival it condemned as an existential threat to golf.


The money has won. The PGA Tour spent the better part of a year trying to convince the planet that it held some kind of high ground—asking for loyalty from its players and arguing that joining LIV was tantamount to “sports-washing” the grim human rights record of its sponsor.


It couldn’t offer the eight and nine-figure guarantees that LIV was paying, so it played to golf’s conscience, whatever that was supposed to be.


Now it’s over. The PGA Tour and LIV will live under one flag, chaired by Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the Governor of the Saudi Public Investment Fund.


PGA Tour boss Jay Monahan—who had led the charge against LIV, calling it “a foreign monarchy that is spending billions of dollars in an attempt to buy the game”–will be CEO of the new entity. The Europe-based DP Tour is also part of the deal.


Shorter version: After shaming players for taking the money, the PGA Tour is… taking the money.


The public, meanwhile, will be asked to forget that the past year ever happened. Golf’s conscience has driven straight off the high road and is doing doughnuts in the club parking lot. You’re going to hear the word “hypocrisy” so much in the coming weeks you’re going to want to banish it like a belly putter.


Are the PGA Tour leaders a bunch of hypocrites for leading us to believe their battle was a righteous cause—going so far as to expel LIV defectors from PGA Tour events—only to turn around and make a deal?


The PGA Tour was happy to be portrayed as if it was in some sort of principled battle versus a golf Darth Vader. Was it Darth versus Darth all along? Was it foolish to indulge any kind of moralism in a sport with such a regrettable history of exclusion?


Or was the PGA Tour’s righteousness nothing but strategy, a ploy to puff out its chest and make itself fearsome to a competitor with the financial power to grind it down to dust?


Better still, was the hypocrisy right there from the beginning—the idea that a business like the PGA Tour could draw any kind of moral line about where the money comes from?


LIV was hardly the first business to seek Saudi investment—a lot of companies doing business there had long been affiliated with golf, including professional golf itself.


Duller, practical considerations were surely a factor. The PGA Tour and LIV were in the thick of antitrust litigation and this deal eliminates an extended, expensive court battle.


It’s hard not to see this as a rabble-rousing victory for LIV, and in particular Greg Norman, its much-maligned founding father, who doesn’t appear to be a part of the new set-up. LIV built a noisy product—no cut-tournaments, fireworks, teams (Fireballs! Crushers!)–and in the space of barely a year, used its financial strength to force the PGA Tour to revise its competitive calendar and compensation scale. Now it’s stepping aboard the yacht as an equal.


And how about those LIV golfers who took that money, and now get to return to the fold—and presumably the world rankings—bank accounts still fattened. The mind races at the locker room conversations, the texts from Phil Mickelson to his fellow LIV defectors. Who feels smart now?


What about the CW, LIV’s television partner? They must be doing cartwheels in the control room. Crushers visors for everyone!



Sergio Garcia of Fireballs GC , Talor Gooch of RangeGoats GC and Brooks Koepka of Smash GC celebrate on the podium after a LIV Golf event in Singapore. PHOTO: SUHAIMI ABDULLAH/GETTY IMAGES

On the other side, there will be fury from those who came forward during the LIV saga to remind the public of those alleged Saudi human-rights abuses as well as its implicated involvement in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Surely they feel used.


What of Rory McIlroy? The PGA Tour was happy to run out its telegenic star as a spokesperson for its alleged virtuousness, expressing solidarity with the sport’s dusty traditions and questioning the motives of colleagues who fled for all that LIV dough.


What about any other golfer courted by LIV who bought the PGA Tour’s protest about loyalty and tradition, and chose to shun the money and stay? How can they possibly take the governing body seriously anymore?


Cynicism, of course, is the default position for many aspects of professional sports. This one is going down like a double stack of cynicism on cynicism, a bracing jolt of reality for anyone who thought this dispute was about anything more elevated than the bottom line.


In the coming days we will learn of more winners, losers and raw feelings. It’s an old lesson that gets repeated again and again in sports and business, but still deserves an occasional reminder.


The money has won, because it almost always does.

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