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PGA Tour agrees to private equity investment from Fenway-led Strategic Sports Group, launches PGA Tour Enterprises

January 31, 2024
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Alex Slitz

The PGA Tour announced it has come to an agreement with Strategic Sports Group for private equity investment. The move, which has been expected since December, was made official to PGA Tour membership in a call Wednesday morning. The announcement coincided with the launch of a new, for-profit venture, PGA Tour Enterprises, which PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan will serve as CEO.

SSG 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 SSG 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.

SSG will invest up to $3 billion into PGA Tour Enterprises with an initial input of $1.5 billion for a valuation of over $12 billion. Players will receive equity into PGA Tour Enterprises; these grants, made over time, will be based on playing accomplishments, future participation and tour status.

“Today marks an important moment for the PGA Tour and fans of golf across the world,” Monahan said in a press release. “By making PGA Tour members owners of their league, we strengthen the collective investment of our players in the success of the PGA Tour. Fans win when we all work to deliver the best in sports entertainment and return the focus to the incredible, and unmatched, competitive atmosphere created by our players, tournaments and partners. And partnering with SSG, a group with extensive experience and investment across sports, media and entertainment, will enhance our organization’s ability to make the sport more rewarding for players, tournaments, fans and partners.”

The tour announced that the PGA Tour policy board unanimously approved the deal. Six PGA Tour players—Patrick Cantlay, Peter Malnati, Adam Scott, Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods, are members of the Policy Board. "We were proud to vote in unanimous support of this historic partnership between PGA Tour Enterprises and SSG," the player directors said in a joint statement. "It was incredibly important for us to create opportunities for the players of today and in the future to be more invested in their organization, both financially and strategically. This not only further strengthens the Tour from a business perspective, but it also encourages the players to be fully invested in continuing to deliver, and further enhance, the best in golf to our fans."

Left mostly unsaid was what role, if any, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund will have in the new for-profit venture. The tour announced that the deal with SSG will allow for co-investment from PIF in the future, and SSG, sources tell Golf Digest, made the deal with the tour under the belief that PIF involvement will ultimately come to fruition. But there are antitrust regulations that need to be hurdled, and Congress announced this week that its investigation into PIF and its investments in American businesses will continue.

Initially the tour sought supplemental investment to appease government antitrust regulations rather than serving as an alternative to PIF, which is the financial backer to LIV Golf. However, talks have stalled between the PIF and tour, and PIF’s renewed recruiting of tour players—highlighted by the December defection of Jon Rahm to LIV—led to hurt feelings on the tour side, sources familiar with the tour proceedings told Golf Digest. PIF, meanwhile, looked at the tour’s solicitation with other private equity deals as a betrayal of sorts to the June 6 framework agreement.

Even if an agreement between the PGA Tour and PIF comes together, there's a chance professional golf will not be unified for another one to two years, sources tell Golf Digest.

The news comes as LIV Golf launches its third season this week in Mexico, while the PGA Tour hosts the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, its second signature event of 2024 with a $20 million overall purse.