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Leaked PGA Tour-Saudi framework agreement presents cloudy outlook for LIV Golf

June 27, 2023
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The framework agreement between the PGA Tour, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and DP World Tour only broadly outlines how the former rival entities intend to coexist, with LIV Golf's future still undetermined.

As Golf Digest had previously reported, the deal between the tour and PIF—which is just five pages long and short on specifics—calls for a new agreement to be completed by the end of the year. There is also a non-solicitation agreement between the PGA Tour and LIV, putting a hold on any further recruiting efforts by LIV.

Perhaps the most notable item in the document that leaked Monday night is LIV Golf’s future. While PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan had previously mentioned that LIV Golf now fell under his direction, the deal outlines that an “empirical data-driven evaluation” will be done by a board for the new for-profit entity (referred to as “NewCo,” which Monahan will lead) that “will determine the ongoing plan and strategy.”

LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman has been telling LIV players and staff members that LIV Golf will return for 2024 and beyond, but there is no guarantee the fledgling circuit will continue, and Norman is not mentioned anywhere in the agreement. The new entity formed by the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and PIF will, however, “undertake a full and objective empirical data-driven evaluation of LIV and its prospects and potential and will make a good faith assessment of the benefits of team golf in general, and PIF, the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour will work together in an effort to determine how best to integrate team golf into PGA Tour and DP World Tour events going forward.” There is also a mention of the parties in question cooperating to help secure Official World Golf Ranking consideration for LIV Golf events.

Golf Digest has obtained a copy of the document, which was first published by the Athletic and No Laying Up. The accord was sent by the tour to the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on Monday, along with other documents and information related to the agreement. The U.S. Senate’s PSI has opened a probe into the alliance, believing 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.” Congress has invited Monahan, Norman and PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan to testify at a public hearing on July 11 regarding the proposed partnership.

The agreement outlines that the PGA Tour will retain voting control of NewCo, and the new board will consist of Monahan as CEO, Al-Rumayyan as chair and PGA Tour board members Ed Herlihy and Jimmy Dunne as board members. Additionally, a communications committee will before formed to help with the transition process. Herlihy will co-chair the new committee with an unnamed individual, with Dunne and another unnamed individual rounding out the committee.

PIF will have the right of first refusal on capital raised by NewCo, and the agreement states that PIF will be “a premier corporate sponsor” of the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and other international tours. Additionally, the parties will “work together collaboratively to identify a high profile event for which PIF or its designee(s) will make a financial investment to serve as title sponsor.” The PGA Tour will have full control on decisions regarding competition and business matters.

The deal was signed on May 30, a week before the alliance was made public. There is a provision in that deal that called for all pending litigation between the tour and PIF to be dropped within 10 days. The provision was made official on June 16, ending a nearly year-long legal battle between the two organizations.

When reached for comment on the matter, a PGA Tour spokesperson responded, “The framework outlines a future for professional golf under the PGA Tour's leadership that benefits players, fans and the sport. Following the recent resolution of litigation, we're working towards a definitive agreement. Any potential agreement resulting from these negotiations will have to be approved by the full board of the PGA Tour, including our player directors.”

Obstacles still remain for the PGA Tour-PIF partnership to ultimately come to fruition. 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. Additionally, 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.