December 5, 2023

The PGA Tour logo during the third round of the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn., on June 24, 2017.

Fred Coffrey | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

Officials behind a proposed deal between the PGA Tour and Saudi-backed rival LIV Golf were invited by key lawmakers to testify at a Senate subcommittee hearing on Wednesday.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Ron Johnson, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, respectively, said the panel would hold a hearing on the merger on July 11.

Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, and Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, called for testimony from Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman and Yasir al-Rumayyan of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

in a letter The senator told Monahan on Wednesday that the subcommittee would review the proposed deal and the Saudi fund’s “golf investment in the United States, the future of LIV Golf funded by PIF, the risks associated with foreign government investment in a U.S. cultural institution, and other aspects of the plan.” The impact of the agreement on the future of professional golf in the United States.”

In response to the invitation, a PGA Tour spokesperson told CNBC that they “look forward to appearing before a Senate subcommittee to answer their questions about what we believe is the future of the PGA Tour as a leader in professional golf and to benefit our players and fans.” The issue of the Framework Agreement, and our movement.”

The tour did not say whether Monaghan, who was named future commissioner of the new entity but was recently on leave due to illness, would testify, would not say whether he would testify. So far, the organization has not specified what medical ailment it is.

The Public Investment Fund did not respond to requests Comment.

“Fans, players and concerned citizens have many questions about the planning agreement between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf,” ranking member Johnson said in a release. “I look forward to hearing the testimony of individuals in the best position to provide the public with insight into the current state of professional golf.”

The investigative subcommittee has broad jurisdiction to investigate everything from corporate abuse to government waste. But committee hearings are relatively rare — it will be the second this year — and they typically mark the early stages of a longer investigation.

This one is no exception.Earlier this month, Blumenthal announced his intention to use the committee to investigate a merger between the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV because Saudi Arabia human rights violation.

he gave to norman and monaghan until June 26 Provides hundreds of records and internal communications.

Blumenthal later told CBS that he would be willing to use “any tool at our disposal, including subpoenas and hearings,” if the PGA Tour or LIV failed to provide the information he was looking for, showing just how serious the investigation could become . , Actions and Legislative Recommendations. “

Blumenthal expressed particular interest in whether the PGA Tour deserves to maintain its tax-exempt nonprofit status as a business association that benefits its members.

Since its founding in 1929, the PGA Tour has grown into a $1.5 billion behemoth driven largely by major event revenue, broadcast rights and licensing fees.

Should LIV make a major investment in the PGA Tour, it would ostensibly create an unprecedented situation in which foreign investors would benefit from purchasing a US tax-exempt organization.

On Wednesday, a PGA Tour spokesperson emphasized that the American Group remains the official business association and that the PGA Tour, not LIV, will oversee any partnership.

The representative said the PGA Tour is “working hard to negotiate a final agreement that is in the best interests of (its members) and ensures that the PGA Tour leads any new ventures.”

shock and scrutiny

Earlier this month, the PGA Tour announced an agreement with its Saudi-backed rival to end pending litigation between the two entities. The entities said they would combine business operations to form a larger, soon-to-be-named enterprise, chaired by Al-Rumayyan.

After the deal was announced — which came as a surprise after months of wrangling and litigation — U.S. officials began pressing for more information about its origins and what it means for the sport.

Last week, Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Ron Wyden of Oregon Raised antitrust concerns and asked the Justice Department to investigate the transaction. Shortly after, the Justice Department’s antitrust division notified the PGA Tour that it would review the proposed merger.

The proposed deal has drawn skepticism from all sides. The PGA Tour and LIV Golf have been at war for some time, with both leagues claiming that the other’s contracts and policies limit golf talent and stifle proper competition.

Golfers are divided between the two organizations as some leave the tour for the hefty salaries offered by LIV.

Since its launch in 2022, LIV has been mired in controversy and criticism. In fact, PIFs are not publicly held, as their name suggests. It is the sovereign wealth fund controlled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The fund has been accused of “sports money laundering” in an attempt to use LIV Golf to improve the image of the oil-rich country and divert attention from the country’s history of human rights abuses.