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Monday, May 20, 2024

Architect of LIV Golf Deal Has Left the PGA Tour. What Happens Next?

  • Jimmy Dunne resigned from the Tour’s policy board.
  • Negotiations with Saudi Arabia continue at a slow pace.
ack Gruber-USA TODAY

Last summer, confidants of PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan secretly negotiated a bombshell deal with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. Nearly one year since that framework agreement with the financial backers of LIV Golf was announced, there’s no timeline for a final deal, and the man who led talks for the PGA Tour just stepped away from his duties.

On Monday, PGA Tour policy board member Jimmy Dunne (above) submitted a letter of resignation, indicating his presence was no longer needed. Dunne, a Wall Street investor and member of Augusta National, joined the board in January 2023, and quickly crafted the controversial deal after meetings with PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan. In the aftermath of the deal’s announcement, Dunne served as a voice for the PGA Tour, looking to explain the rationale. 

“I have not been asked to take part in negotiations with the PIF since June 2023,” Dunne wrote. “During my testimony at the Senate hearing, I said it was my intention to cast my vote alongside the Player Directors if a final agreement was reached with the PIF. Since the players now outnumber the Independent Directors on the Board, and no meaningful progress has been made towards a transaction with the PIF, I feel like my vote and my role is utterly superfluous.”

As Dunne referenced, players—after being left in the dark during original PIF negotiations—flipped control by taking a majority of the seats on the policy board and, even more important, on the board of PGA Tour Enterprises, the for-profit entity formed after a $1.5 billion investment from Strategic Sports Group.

The Latest on Negotiations

On Tuesday at the PGA Championship, Tiger Woods said there had been progress in talks with the PIF, calling them fluid and changing day-to-day. “It may not be giant steps, but we’re making steps,” he said. Woods is part of a newly formed transaction committee, which the PGA Tour said has been engaging directly with the PIF. Monahan and Rory McIlroy are among other members of that group.

Max Homa said the developments must be “exhausting” for casual golf fans. “I don’t know why you would want to hear about the business side of this game,” he said. “As a fan of other sports, I do not care about the business side of what the Lakers and Dodgers are doing.” Without being asked about Dunne, Homa added, “The fans of golf should not know who is on the board.”

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