Friday September 22, 2023
The Best Employers in Sports Survey is Now Open!

Senate Subpoenas Saudi Investment Fund Records in PGA Tour Inquiry

  • The second hearing reveals deep concerns about the potential PGA Tour-LIV Golf deal.
  • The committee considers broader Saudi implications beyond golf.
Senate Hearings
Photo by A.J. Perez
Front Office Sports Today

Could Promotion-Relegation work in College Football?

The proposal aims to create an exciting media product while reducing travel for non-football sports.
Listen Now
September 21, 2023 | Podcast
Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

WASHINGTON — A Senate committee will attempt to obtain something lawyers for the PGA Tour could not: records from the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund. 

Minutes before a second hearing on the PGA Tour-LIV Golf partnership began in front of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on Wednesday, Chairman Sen. Richard Blumenthal subpoenaed documents from PIF — the major financial backer of LIV Golf that would invest at least $1 billion under the framework merger agreement agreed to earlier this year. 

“I’m frustrated and frankly angry,” Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) told Front Office Sports after the hearing concluded. “They seem to be hiding something pretty important to them. If they had nothing to hide, they’d certainly be willing to disclose what they’re doing here. It’s just really so deeply troubling.”

PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan turned down an invitation to appear before the committee, and the memorandum attached to the subpoena stated that PIF “repeatedly declined to voluntarily cooperate with the subcommittee’s investigation.”

“They’ve claimed that [Al-Rumayyan] is an official of a foreign government and therefore that he has this kind of immunity from official process,” Blumenthal said. “We’re beginning with this subpoena because, clearly, [PIF’s] U.S. subsidiary is subject to our laws. We are giving them the opportunity to do the right thing and come forward.”

During the hearing, the committee staff displayed slides showing PIF’s investments in professional sports, including Formula One, FIFA, Newcastle United, the ATP Tour, and the IOC. Saudi Arabia’s alleged use of those investments to rehabilitate its image globally via sportswashing was a major theme of the nearly two-hour hearing. 

Wednesday’s hearing follows a July hearing where PGA Tour Policy Board member Jimmy Dunn and PGA Tour COO Ron Price testified about the framework of the partnership agreement that would unify the PGA Tour, LIV, and DP World Tour into one commercial entity. 

“If you look at this as a business investment, it’s one of the worst business investments you could possibly think of,” Ben Freeman, director of Democratizing Foreign Policy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, testified. “The ROI here is just non-existent. You look at this as a long-term influence investment. It might take years. It might take decades. It’s going to be very subtle. Investments like this from authoritarian regimes [are] long-term efforts to garner influence in the U.S.”

It was clear early in the hearing that Saudi Arabia’s influence in pro golf — and sports in general — wouldn’t be the only aim of the committee. 

“I think the inquiry is expanding well beyond that,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), the ranking member of the committee. 

Johnson said he had conversations Monday with the FBI about finding out what the DOJ knows about Saudi Arabia’s links to 9/11. Johnson said the FBI turned over five pages of redacted documents that Johnson waived in front of him. 

“If the DOJ and FBI continue to withhold these relevant documents, I hope this subcommittee will use every authority we have to compel compliance to our legitimate congressional oversight,” Johnson said. “Why should unelected bureaucrats be able to access and view these records without redactions, while duly elected members of Congress, who have full authority to view classified documents, why are we kept in the dark?”

Blumenthal told FOS that he hasn’t received an update on the status of the negotiations toward finalizing the LIV-PGA Tour partnership. The deal faces a Dec. 31 deadline, although that can be extended via a mutual agreement.

Copy Link
Link Copied
Link Copied

What to Read

LIV Golf flag pin

Saudi Prince Dismisses Sportswashing Claims Post Newcastle, LIV Golf

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is bullish on sports.

How Daktronics Helps Elite Athletic Programs Secure Top Talent

How colleges are utilizing Daktronics' displays to elevate recruiting.

WBD Pursues ‘Different’ Strategy For Sports on Max

Company to place all of its live sports on new streaming tier
Deion Sanders

Colorado's Epic Victory Sets New ESPN Prime Time Viewership Record

Coach Prime Deion Sanders delivered in prime time on ESPN.
podcast thumbnail mobile
Front Office Sports Today

Could Promotion-Relegation work in College Football?


Featured Today

Teams without secured venue situations could be left out of a potential XFL-USFL merger.

XFL-USFL Merger Could Drop Teams, Change League Name

Teams without secured venues could be cut from a XFL-USFL merger.
September 21, 2023

Rupert Murdoch's Exit Leaves Lasting Fox Sports Legacy

Rupert Murdoch steps down as chairman of Fox Corp. and News Corp.
Could ESPN lose events such as the NBA Finals if it sold ABC.
September 21, 2023

Selling ABC Poses Billion-Dollar Dilemma for Disney and ESPN's Future

Losing ABC would create complications as ESPN enters NBA rights negotiations.
Boise State Broncos running back Ashton Jeanty (2) runs the ball against the North Dakota Fighting Hawks during the first half at Albertsons Stadium.
September 20, 2023

The First Official Proposal for Promotion-Relegation In College Football

Realignment is forcing Group of 5 schools to rethink their structure.


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
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence is among the FTX endorsers who have reached a settlement for their roles in promoting the crypto exchange.

Trevor Lawrence Settles Lawsuit Over FTX Crypto Endorsement

Lawrence has settled while other FTX athlete endorsers still face lawsuits.
Lane Kiffin
September 15, 2023

Ole Miss Football Player Files $40M Lawsuit Against Lane Kiffin, School

Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin is being sued by one of his players.
Jim Trotter
September 12, 2023

Reporter Jim Trotter Sues NFL, Alleges NFL Owner Made Racist Remark

Trotter alleged Terry Pegula made a "highly offensive and racist" remark.
Michael Irvin
August 31, 2023

Potential Trial in Michael Irvin’s Lawsuit Against Marriott Many Months Off

Irvin returned to the air this week as a contributor on FS1’s “Undisputed”.
Brett Favre sues Shannon Sharpe, Pat McAfee, and Mississippi State Auditor Shad White .
August 29, 2023

Brett Favre’s Attorneys Mount Challenge Over Text Messages in Welfare Funds Lawsuit

Favre is among more than 40 defendants in the civil case.
August 28, 2023

Nearly 30 New Subpoenas Seek Communications With Brett Favre

Former NFL player Adalius Thomas among those subpoenaed.
August 24, 2023

Defiant Panini Is Contesting Early Breakup With NFLPA

Panini seeks arbitration after the NFLPA ended the deal.
The NCAA's 2021 statement “irreparably damaged his reputation,” claims Bush’s lawyers.
August 23, 2023

Reggie Bush to File Defamation Lawsuit Against NCAA

NCAA's 2021 statement "irreparably damaged his reputation,” Bush’s lawyers said.