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Report: PGA Tour under investigation by Department of Justice for Saudi deal

June 15, 2023
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LOS ANGELES — The United States Department of Justice has notified the PGA Tour that it will review the tour’s planned partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The news comes just a week after the surprise announcement between the tour, the DP World Tour and the PIF, one that would hopefully end professional golf’s schism. Earlier this week the U.S. Senate opened a probe into the alliance, as the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations wrote the deal “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.”

It is unclear how a DOJ probe could delay the timeline of the union. Earlier this week tour officials outlined in a meeting with tour employees that the deal could take a year to complete, or ultimately still fall apart.

As of writing the PGA Tour has not responded to a request for comment.

The PGA Tour is already involved in a Department of Justice antitrust probe investigation that was spurred by the advent of LIV Golf (which is funded by PIF) following the Saudi-backed circuit’s accusations that the tour and golf’s governing bodies conspired against LIV. The tour is also in an antitrust lawsuit and countersuit against LIV, although as part of the proposed deal all pending litigation would end.

Complicating matters is PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan’s leave of absence following a health scare. In response to government criticism Monahan sent a letter to the Senate, asserting the partnership was a response to the lack of help from Congress in the tour’s battle with LIV Golf while highlighting that many American entities have business relationships with PIF.

This is not the first time the PGA Tour has faced government scrutiny. In the early 1990s, the Federal Trade Commission concluded a four-year investigation into whether the tour violated antitrust laws—partially due to a rule stipulating permission for a conflicting-event release, which the tour has invoked this year to suspend those who have defected to LIV Golf. At the time, the FTC recommended federal action, but none was ultimately taken, a circumstance credited to the work of then-PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem (a lawyer himself who worked in President Jimmy Carter’s administration) and the tour’s lobbying mastery. Coincidentally, this clashed with LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman’s first try to challenge the PGA Tour through his attempt to launch the World Tour.

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