PGA Tour

PGA Tour rejects major sports company's investment bid amid Saudi PIF discussions

October 28, 2023

Jared C. Tilton

The PGA Tour has rejected a private equity offer from one of the most powerful entities in sports.

It is no secret that several companies are vying to provide financial backing to the PGA Tour amid the tour’s ongoing discussions with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, calling into question if the PIF deal will ultimately come to fruition. Endeavor, the parent company the WWE, the UFC, and sports agency IMG, and which has a market value of close to $10 billion, was one of the primary interested investors. Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel confirmed his company’s bid just weeks ago. "We are in the sports business," Emanuel said earlier in October. "I'm an avid golfer. It's one of the great sports. I love it. I think we could add to it what we've added to all of our sports based on the flywheel [effect]."

However, Endeavor president and COO Mark Shapiro told Sportico on Friday that its offer to invest and partner with the tour was turned down.

"We're big fans of golf, and we'll continue to champion the PGA Tour,” Endeavor’s Mark Shapiro said, “but we're not going to be an investor at any level."

Other entities include the Fenway Sports Group (which owns the Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Premier League team Liverpool F.C.) and the investment firm KKR & Co.

Earlier this month the PGA Tour acknowledged these discussions in a memo to its membership. "We remain focused on reaching a Definitive Agreement with PIF and the DP World Tour, but not surprisingly, these negotiations have resulted in unsolicited outreach and proposals from a number of other interested investors," the PGA Tour’s Jason Gore wrote in the memo, which has been obtained by Golf Digest. "All of this activity reinforces the Tour's strong position and our potential for growth."

The framework between the tour and PIF calls for a new agreement to be completed by the end of the year, although both sides can agree to extend the deadline. Outside obstacles remain for the PGA Tour-PIF partnership. The U.S. Senate opened an investigation into the pending deal, citing that the alliance “raises concerns about the Saudi government’s role in influencing this effort and the risks posed by a foreign government entity assuming control over a cherished American institution.” The deal could be reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which analyzes mergers regarding potential threats to the nation’s security. Additionally, the tour continues to be under an antitrust probe by the U.S. Department of Justice, and PIF’s investment into the tour is expected to fall under this investigation.