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PGA Tour advances negotiations with private equity group; Saudi PIF discussions remain ongoing

December 10, 2023
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Fenway Sports Group's John Henry and Tom Werner are among several pro sports owners that make up the Strategic Sports Group. The PGA Tour announced on Sunday that it is advancing negotiations with the SSG as a possible investor in the tour's new for-profit company.

Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox

The PGA Tour announced that it is advancing negotiations with Strategic Sports Group for private equity investment with the tour.

In a memo sent by the tour’s policy board to membership Sunday, and later published on the tour’s website, the tour said discussions with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund remain ongoing, while asserting the DP World Tour will continue to be a part of the new for-profit venture, PGA Tour Enterprises.

“Please know that while we can’t get into more details at this time, we are very confident in an eventual, positive outcome for all players and the PGA Tour as a whole,” the board wrote.

SGS is a collective of several investors and firms, fronted by the Fenway Sports Group. The sports conglomerate owns the Boston Red Sox, the Pittsburgh Penguins, Liverpool F.C., and a NASCAR racing team. The group also has Fenway Park and the New England Sports Network under its umbrella.

Other members of SGS include Arthur Blank owner of the Atlanta Falcons), Wyc Grousbeck (Boston Celtics), Marc Lasry (Milwaukee Bucks), Tom Ricketts (Chicago Cubs), Cohen Private Ventures (New York Mets) and HighPost Capital. Many of the aforementioned names have an ownership stake in TGL, the Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy mixed-reality circuit that was set to launch in 2024, but was pushed back a year when its facility suffered damage in a storm last month.

The memo to players noted that the policy board had unanimously agreed to continue talks with the SSG after a series of meetings over the past several days to "thoroughly review, discuss and debate the extremely strong proposals submitted by a final set of outside investors." Published reports had said that three private equity groups previously remained in the mix: Fenway Sports Group, Acorn Growth Cos. and Liberty Media Corp.

The memo comes as the Dec. 31 deadline nears for the PGA Tour and PIF to finalize their framework agreement, although the two parties can agree to push the deadline back. It remains unclear if the private equity backing is an alternative to PIF money, or if it will be used to supplement the deal in order to appease government antitrust regulations.

Sources tell Golf Digest that PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan are scheduled to meet face-to-face this week after a meeting planned for last week was postponed.

Adding to the ambiguity is the recent defection of Jon Rahm to LIV Golf (which is financially backed by PIF), a move that some believe could accelerate a PGA Tour-PIF deal, while others think Rahm’s signing could renew professional golf’s civil war. Rahm was the first PGA Tour player to jump to LIV Golf in nearly a year. Speculation is that other players might follow in the coming days as the PIF looks to increase its leverage in the negotiations with the PGA Tour.