LIV Golf attorneys reveal league generated 'virtually zero' revenue in 2022
Chris Trotman/LIV Golf
Attorneys for LIV Golf claim the league generated “virtually zero” revenue during its inaugural season, according to the latest court filings.
In a motion opposing the PGA Tour’s request to add Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and its governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan to the lawsuit along with an extension of document discovery, attorneys for LIV assert the tour is merely trying to delay the plaintiffs’ antitrust claim “indefinitely,” while acknowledging that a delay would hurt the Saudi-backed circuit.
“The tour has damaged LIV’s brand, driven up its costs by hundreds of millions of dollars, and driven down revenues to virtually zero,” the statement reads. “For example, just last month, the press reported on a new regulation from the tour that imposes rolling two-year bans on any player—tour member or not—who plays in even a single LIV tournament. The trial is currently scheduled for January 2024, on the eve of the 2024 golf season. If the Tour is permitted to continue its anticompetitive conduct into another season beyond 2023, the damage to LIV and to the nascent competition it has brought to the marketplace would be immeasurable. LIV needs resolution of its claims to limit its ongoing damages.”
LIV also argues that because some of its members are signed to limited deals, any deal could leave said players without a place to compete. “Plaintiffs Matt Jones and Peter Uihlein are not under contract with LIV past 2023, and the tour has banned them,” LIV attorneys argue. “Their careers are at risk.”
The news that LIV Golf failed to generate much revenue is not necessarily a surprise. LIV failed to attract a traditional U.S. television deal or sponsorship in 2022 while spending hundreds of millions of dollars in player and employee contracts, event purses and tournament buildout. Though no new sponsors have yet to be announced for 2023, LIV did secure a media partnership with The CW Network.
Earlier this week the tour requested the PIF and Al-Rumayyan be added as defendants in the tour’s tortious interference counterclaim. In seeking an extension to the deadline for document discovery, the tour claims that PIF and Al-Rumayyan have gone to “extraordinary steps to avoid producing a single document or providing sworn testimony.” “The tour cannot—and should not be forced to—defend against the antitrust claims without receiving any discovery from the people who created LIV in the first place, and who continue to exercise control over every facet of LIV’s business operations,” the request reads. “By ignoring the reality that discovery from LIV’s owners and decision-makers is essential to resolving the antitrust claims, Plaintiffs confirm the unworkability of the current schedule.”
Document discovery is supposed to be completed by the end of March, but the tour is requesting a six-month extension. A tentative date for summary judgment in the antitrust case is set for July 23, where the tour will likely seek to dismiss the case. The trial date is expected to begin on Jan. 8, 2024, but in requesting an extension of the discovery deadline, the tour is also seeking to push back this date as well. Late last month, the tour sought to add PIF and Al-Rumayyan to the suit, with the motion arguing that LIV is the end result of a “long-contrived plan” to take over professional golf as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which Golf Digest has detailed here. The PIF is the primary backer of LIV, and documents the PGA Tour obtained in discovery in December allege that PIF and Al-Rumayyan were “instrumental in inducing players to breach their tour contracts.” The tour argues Al-Rumayyan personally recruited players, “played an active role in contract negotiations, and expressly approved each of the player contracts—all while knowing that these deals would interfere with the players’ tour contracts.”
Al-Rumayyan, who is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s inner circle, is considered the mastermind of the Golf Saudi and LIV Golf projects. Though Greg Norman has been the public-facing leader of LIV Golf, sources familiar with LIV tell Golf Digest Al-Rumayyan and Majed Al Sorour were the two people who had final say over LIV Golf/Golf Saudi matters. Last month Al Sorour was transitioned out of managing director of LIV Golf.
Earlier this week LIV Golf announced its team names and captains for the 2023 season, but full player rosters have yet to be revealed. The league begins its second season later this month.