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PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia's PIF agree to extend deadline for potential deal

December 31, 2023
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Icon Sportswire

The PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund have extended their self-imposed deadline on a proposed business agreement to create a new for-profit venture tenatively labeled PGA Tour Enterprises. The news was delivered to the PGA Tour's membership in a memo sent on Sunday from commissioner Jay Monahan.

The surprise "framework agreement" between the tour, DP World Tour and PIF announced on June 6 called for a more formal deal to be completed by Dec. 31, although all sides had the right to push that date back. Two sources familiar with the discussions told Golf Digest the hope is to finish negotiations by the Players Championship in March, held at the tour’s headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. There’s also an unspoken directive not to allow unresolved discussions to carry into April, sources tell Golf Digest, as the tour does not want to take away focus from the Masters tournament.

In Sunday's memo, Monahan categorized the PIF and DP World Tour discussions as “active and productive.”

Earlier this month, the PGA Tour began advanced negotiations with Strategic Sports Group for private equity investment with the tour. SGS is a collective of several investors and firms, fronted by the Fenway Sports Group. On Sunday, Monahan reported "meaningful progress" has been made in talks with SGS and that the entities are working toward a finalization of terms.

SSG 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 and 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.

Monahan's memo further addressed what the tour expects the business arrangment to look like if all of the deals are completed. Monahan said SSG, PIF and DP World Tour would be "minority co-investors" in PGA Tour Enterprises in 2024. “These partnerships will allow us to unify, innovate and invest in the game for the benefit of the players, fans and sponsors,” Monahan said.

It remains unclear if the private equity backing is an alternative to PIF money, or if it will be used to supplement a deal in order to appease U.S. government antitrust regulations. 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.

Additionally, outside obstacles remain for the PGA Tour-PIF partnership. The U.S. Senate opened an investigation into the pending deal, citing that the alliance “raises concerns about the Saudi government’s role in influencing this effort and the risks posed by a foreign government entity assuming control over a cherished American institution.” The deal could be reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which analyzes mergers regarding potential threats to the nation’s security. The tour continues to be under an antitrust probe by the U.S. Department of Justice, and PIF’s investment into the tour is expected to fall under this investigation.