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Jimmy Dunne, author of PGA Tour's secret deal with Saudi Arabia, resigns citing 'no meaningful progress' on PIF-Tour deal

May 13, 2024
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Ben Jared

Jimmy Dunne, one of the architects behind the PGA Tour’s framework agreement with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, has resigned from the PGA Tour policy board.

In a letter to the PGA Tour’s directors of the policy board, Dunne said he’s done with his position effective “immediately,” citing a lack of progress on a potential deal with PIF as one of his reasons.

“As you are aware, 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.”

Dunne is the vice chairman and senior managing principal of Piper Sandler, an investment bank and financial services company heavily involved in mergers and acquisitions. He’s also an avid golfer and belongs to some of the most prestigious clubs in the country, including Augusta National, Pine Valley, National Golf Links and Seminole Golf Club, connections that made him one of golf’s biggest insiders. Dunne also credits golf for saving his life; he was attempting to qualify for the U.S. Mid-Amateur on Sept. 11, 2001 when planes crashed into the World Trade Center, where his office was located. That day he lost many friends and colleagues to the terrorist attack.

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Jimmy Dunne speaks during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee hearing in Washington, DC, on July 11, 2023.

Bloomberg

Dunne, along with tour board member Ed Herlihy, was deputized by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan during the onset of golf’s civil war to make contact with PIF governor and LIV Golf boss Yasir Al-Rumayyan to see if the PIF had any interest in a possible detente. It was Dunne’s initial meeting with Al-Rumayyan that paved discussions for the initial framework agreement. As part of those talks, Dunne was given a spot on the newly created PGA Tour Enterprises board.

Dunne ultimately testified in front of Congress in the summer of 2023 about his role in those negotiations. Emails released by Congress later showed Dunne was supposed to oversee the direction of LIV Golf following the merger.

Due to the secretive nature of the initial PIF talks, Dunne faced a backlash of sorts from tour membership. He was not given a role on the tour’s transaction team that will be handling future conversations with PIF, and because the tour created a new player position for Tiger Woods—the result of a petition from tour players seeking new governance and transparency measures following June 6—Dunne's position with the tour lost the power it once had.

The news comes a week after Rory McIlroy’s bid to rejoin the policy board was blocked by several players. However, McIlroy was eventually named to the separate transaction team.