Thursday September 28, 2023

‘A Lot of Work To Do’ In Finalizing PGA Tour-LIV Deal

  • More than two months after the deal framework was announced, negotiations haven't budged much.
  • The PGA Tour players have tremendous sway on finalizing the tentative agreement.
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Front Office Sports Today

Bucks Go All-In on Giannis Era

The Milwaukee Bucks altered the NBA by swinging a deal for Damian Lillard.
Listen Now
September 28, 2023 | Podcast
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

Since the framework agreement announced in June, progress has been slow toward finalizing an agreement that would officially end golf’s divide between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund-backed LIV, two sources with knowledge of the negotiations told Front Office Sports. 

“There’s a lot of work to do,” one source said. 

The lack of movement has left some within the process questioning whether a final agreement can even be reached by the Dec. 31 deadline, which can be extended. The five-page framework was the first crucial step toward unifying the assets of the PGA Tour, LIV, and DP World Tour into one commercial entity that would have at least $1 billion in investments from PIF.

None of the PGA Tour players had a role in the framework that was negotiated in secret on the PGA Tour’s side by Policy Board members Jimmy Dunne and Ed Herlihy along with Commissioner Jay Monahan.

Dunne and Herlihy are among the four independent directors on the PGA Tour’s Policy Board. The other six members are PGA Tour players: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Webb Simpson, Peter Malnati, Patrick Cantlay, and Charley Hoffman.

Woods recently was added to the Policy Board. Randall Stephenson, a former AT&T executive, said he had “serious concerns” about the partnership when he resigned from the board last month. 

It isn’t immediately clear what issues are holding up negotiations outside some pushback from the player members of the Policy Board, according to one source.

The sports banking firm Allen & Co. and Colin Neville, a partner at The Raine Group, are involved with assisting the PGA Tour and the players during the process.

An Allen & Co. representative declined comment. Neville and LIV did not return messages left by FOS.

A PGA Tour spokesperson pointed FOS to comments made by Monahan and Dennis on Tuesday.

PGA Tour President Tyler Dennis, who sat alongside Monahan at Tuesday’s news conference, said there has been progress.

“It’s very positive and collaborative in nature,” Dennis said. 

The framework has accomplished two things that were considered wins for the PGA Tour: the end of all litigation, and the inclusion of a no-poaching clause. 

The PGA Tour, LIV, and PIF have spent tens of millions on lawyers since LIV initially sued the PGA Tour last August. But with more than $700 billion of assets, PIF was in a better financial position to wage a legal battle that would have spanned at least until late next year. 

LIV’s original complaint, a PGA Tour countersuit, and PIF’s appeal over a discovery decision were all dropped within days of the framework announcement.

Monahan was asked Tuesday if the main goal was reached: the end of the legal dispute with LIV and PIF. 

“I would say that we operate in good faith, and I see that on both sides,” Monahan said. “If we were going to end the litigation, we would have just announced that we were ending the litigation.”

Granted, it’s doubtful that LIV and PIF would have ended their legal pursuit without some certainty of a final deal. The framework mandated that the litigation be dismissed with prejudice, meaning the same claims can’t be refiled. 

The no-poaching clause was removed last month after the Justice Department — which launched an antitrust investigation into the PGA Tour last year — raised concerns, which effectively allows LIV to once again lure current PGA Tour players. Its last splashy addition was 2022 British Open champion Cameron Smith last August. 

One indication that LIV may think a deal with the PGA Tour could crumble would be a new wave of big-money offers. 

Monahan, however, sounds optimistic that the partnership agreement can be finalized. 

“We have safeguards that are in place to put the PGA Tour in a position to control our future, and as I sit here today, I am confident that we will reach an agreement that achieves a positive outcome for the PGA Tour and our fans,” Monahan said. “I see it, and I’m certain of it.”

Meanwhile, there doesn’t appear to be anything stopping the PGA Tour or DP World Tour from seeking funding elsewhere — something Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told FOS should be explored

“There are investors who are willing to provide capital,” Blumenthal said after the Senate Permanent Subcommittee hearing on July 11. “We’re not talking here about hundreds of billions of dollars. It’s a billion dollars, which in the world of corporate America today is not insurmountable.

Blumenthal sent a letter to PIF chief Yasir Al-Rumayyan seeking documents and his testimony. Al-Rumayyan and Monahan did not attend the first hearing. 

“In short, PIF cannot have it both ways,” Blumenthal wrote. “If it wants to engage with the United States commercially, it must be subject to United States law and oversight. That oversight includes this subcommittee’s inquiry.”

Al-Rumayyan and Greg Norman, LIV’s CEO, didn’t come off too well at the hearing. 

Al-Rumayyan didn’t personally request a membership to Augusta National and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews as part of the framework, although a presentation obtained by the Senate subcommittee listed that possibility. 

Blumenthal also said that Norman would be “terminated” once the partnership was finalized, but that also didn’t make the framework. 

“That’s the point I kept making: there’s no deal,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) told FOS after July’s hearing.

Another hearing before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is scheduled for Sept. 13. Like the first, not many new details on the negotiations are expected to be shared given the lack of meaningful movement.

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

PGA Tour Receiving New Investor Interest Amid Saudi Deal

U.S. investors are reportedly wanting to get involved with the Tour.

BioSteel Bankruptcy Shows Perils of Costly Sports Partnerships

BioSteel spent heavily on partnerships deals before bankruptcy.
Taylor Swift at Chiefs vs. Bears game.

Taylor Swift NFL Hype Likely To Continue Another Week

Swift could drive blockbuster TV ratings for NBC's "Sunday Night Football."

Lillard And Giannis Pairing Could Be Big For The NBA, Too

Bucks to be featured on national TV 19 times this season
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Bucks Go All-In on Giannis Era


Featured Today

Magic Johnson Open To Knicks Minority Ownership Stake

Basketball Hall of Famer only interested in specific NBA franchise
Golden State Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob walks alone the baseline during the third quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers at Chase Center.
September 27, 2023

Warriors Owner Reportedly Adding A Bay Area WNBA Franchise

An official announcement could come as soon as early October.
NFL concussions
September 27, 2023

The NFL’s $1B Battle Over Concussion Settlement Heats Up

The NFL is seeking at least $1.2 billion from its risk carriers.
September 26, 2023

NFL's Swift Mania Starting To Show Impact Through Merch Sales, Viewership

Taylor Swift stole the NFL's spotlight by attending Sunday's Chiefs game.


Powered By

Careers in Sports

Looking for a new job? Check out these featured listings and search for openings all over the world.
Chicago Cubs
New York
Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group, Inc.
USA - Multiple Locations

Panini Picks Up Legal Win, Will Still Make WWE Trading Cards

New York judge denies WWE's bid for restraining order
September 25, 2023

Hollywood Writers' Deal Would Boost Sports Networks and Agencies

Several major sports media entities, talent agencies exposed to strike's effects
September 21, 2023

TKO Makes First Big Move After WWE-UFC Merger

Investors drop TKO shares by 15% following SmackDown rights deal
Deion Sanders
September 19, 2023

Deion Sanders' Sunglass Tiff Nets Eyewear Company Nearly $4.5 Million

Sanders has Midas touch for sunglasses sponsor Blenders.
September 15, 2023

Goldman Sachs Opens Door For Clients To Invest In Sports Teams

Firm initiative opens new opportunities for wealthiest clients
An Everton player displays shirt sponsor, a gambling company, during a match.
September 15, 2023

Everton Acquisition By 777 Partners Extends U.S. Presence in Premier League

American entities now control half of Premier League clubs
September 12, 2023

TKO $21B Merger Closes With Aggressive Ambitions

Newly created company looks to accelerate existing growth trajectory
September 7, 2023

Pinault Completes Landmark $7B Acquisition Of CAA

Major talent agency now in control of French billionaire