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Senate Hearing

Side agreement between PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia's PIF proposed terminating LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman

July 11, 2023

Peter Van der Klooster

A side agreement between the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund proposed that LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman would be terminated.

In his opening remarks during Tuesday’s Congressional hearing on the planned partnership between the tour and PIF, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said there had been a side-agreement among members of the PGA Tour and PIF negotiations that Norman would be pushed out in involvement with the new alliance. Later, Blumenthal mentioned that Norman would instead be moved to another role.

According to a PGA Tour spokesperson, the side agreement was never signed. The PGA Tour's chief operating officer Ron Price, speaking to Blumenthal in the hearing said that if an agreement does move forward "we would not have a requirement for that type of position" when asked about Norman.

According to the governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is the primary financial backer of LIV Golf, Greg Norman did not find out about the peace treaty between LIV and golf’s tours until moments before the governor’s scheduled CNBC TV appearance to discuss the deal with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan. Norman has been telling LIV players and staff members that LIV Golf will return for 2024 and beyond, but there is no guarantee the fledgling circuit will continue, and Norman is not mentioned anywhere in the framework agreement.

The new entity formed by the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and PIF will, however, “undertake a full and objective empirical data-driven evaluation of LIV and its prospects and potential and will make a good faith assessment of the benefits of team golf in general, and PIF, the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour will work together in an effort to determine how best to integrate team golf into PGA Tour and DP World Tour events going forward.” There is also a mention of the parties in question cooperating to help secure Official World Golf Ranking consideration for LIV Golf events.

Norman’s job has long been considered in jeopardy. Since being named the CEO of LIV Golf in the fall of 2021, Norman has made numerous speaking gaffes, including downplaying Washington Post Jamal Khashoggi’s murder by Saudi Arabian authorities by saying, “We all make mistakes.” His open letter threatening PGA Tour Commissioner Monahan was widely ridiculed, and depending on the day, he vacillates between wanting to battle the PGA Tour over the fate of professional golf and wanting to work with them. Norman’s also been prone to making grand promises regarding his league or player moves, and most of those promises have not come to fruition.

PGA Tour leaders Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were adamant that for any peace to take place between the entities, Norman would need to go. For his part, Norman asserted he was there to stay. “I pay zero attention to McIlroy and Woods, right?,” Norman said at the end of 2022. “They have their agenda for whatever reason. They’re saying whatever they want to say. It has no bearing or effect on me. I’m going to be with LIV for a long, long period of time.”

Blumenthal's remarks came at the Senate’s hearing, “The PGA-LIV Deal: Implications for the Future of Golf and Saudi Arabia’s Influence in the United States.” It is part of a Congressional probe opened by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in response to the surprising partnership announced June 6 between the tour and PIF. According to Senator Blumenthal the deal “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 alliance could be reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which analyzes mergers regarding potential threats to the nation’s security.

This post will continue to be updated.