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Keith Pelley says he’s committed to finishing deal between PGA Tour, PIF and DP World Tour before leaving

January 12, 2024
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Ross Kinnaird

DUBAI — He might have announced the date when he will no longer be the chief executive of the DP World Tour (April 2), but Keith Pelley isn’t quite finished with the job he started in August 2015. With less than three months to go before he returns to his home town of Toronto to become the fifth President & CEO in the 25-year history of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd, the man who celebrated his 60th birthday on Thursday has one last thing he would like to take care of. Or at least be a significant part of.

“We hope to come to a conclusion and moving that forward is something that is going to be my primary focus over the next three months,” said Pelley of his role in the negotiations that will hopefully conclude in the creation of a for-profit company involving the PGA Tour, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, the DP World Tour and private equity stakeholder Strategic Sports Group. “I'm definitely staying until April, and I've told the PGA Tour and I've told representatives from PIF that that is my priority. I still believe it. That is the reason we entered into the framework agreement, and we need to move it forward.

“I said things would heat up after the Ryder Cup, and they have,” Pelley continued. “So yeah, I'm optimistic over the next couple of months. I'm definitely not leaving for three months, and that's the primary reason. I had a conversation with the chairman and the nomination committee to stay on to try to bring the framework to a conclusion. Unifying the game is something that I think we all want. If it happens, it would be very gratifying, especially to me.”

As for why he is switching jobs at such a crucial moment in time, Pelley was philosophical.

“The timing is never right with these sorts of things,” he said. “And yes, it is an emotional time. But this was a decision I didn’t make unilaterally; I made it with my family. The opportunity to go home and run your childhood teams [MLSE brands include the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Argonauts and Toronto FC], is something that's an honor and a privilege. I’m excited, but I'm torn because I've had a wonderful eight and a half years [in England], and I love the DP World Tour. I love everything about it.

“Before I came to the tour, I said to the owner of [Toronto-based] Rogers Media [where Pelley was CEO], Edward Rogers, that there is only one job I would come home for, and that is CEO of MLSE,” Pelley continued. “It's really the only job I'd ever leave the DP World Tour for, unless there was an NFL team in Toronto, which there isn’t.”

Pelley was speaking after completing his second round in the Dubai Invitational, where he sits T-19 in the 60-man pro-am field gathered at Dubai Creek. The four-footer he missed on the final green didn’t seem to be adversely affecting his mood. Then again, he currently has other and bigger things on his mind.