New entity to include DP World Tour
The PGA Tour and LIV Golf will merge, ending their feud and signaling a deep-pocketed alliance to control golf worldwide. The DP World Tour, formerly called the European Tour, is also part of the deal.
Much is unknown about the agreement that ends two years of bitter legal disputes and that led to the defection to LIV Golf of some of the PGA Tour’s biggest stars. The statement announcing the merger states the entities will form a global collective to promote golf.
Unlike the PGA Tour, which, for all the millions of dollars that flow through it, is a nonprofit entity, the product of the merger of LIV Golf, the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour will be for-profit.
There is likely to be some blowback about the PGA Tour signing on with the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf, which is funded by the Saudis’ Public Investment Fund. Families of the victims of the 2001 9/11 attacks note that 19 of the 21 men who hijacked four U.S. airliners were Saudi citizens. The 9/11 families have protested at LIV Golf events.
Additionally, there is likely blowback to the PGA Tour’s getting in bed financially with the Saudis due to Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human rights record. The Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has been accused by the CIA of ordering the murder of Jamal Kashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of the Saudi regime.
Critics cite the flood of Saudi money into professional soccer, F1 racing and golf as “sports-washing,” or an attempt to buy the country and its leaders positive media coverage.
Early reaction to the merger was generally negative, with opinion writers accusing Monahan and the PGA Tour of hypocrisy for decrying the Saudi connection to LIV Golf, then agreeing to merge with it.
“The PGA Tour’s merger with LIV Golf, announced out of the blue on Tuesday morning, could be called a betrayal of every principle the PGA ever espoused,” wrote Will Leitch for the Intelligencer website.
However, the chairman of Augusta National, the head of the R&A and Jack Nicklaus all issued statements praising the merger as being in the interests of the game of golf.
Statement on PGA Tour LIV Golf merger
Here is the statement that the PGA Tour released today:
The PGA Tour, DP World Tour and the Public Investment Fund today announced a landmark agreement to unify the game of golf, on a global basis. The parties have signed an agreement that combines PIF’s golf-related commercial businesses and rights (including LIV Golf) with the commercial businesses and rights of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour into a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity to ensure that all stakeholders benefit from a model that delivers maximum excitement and competition among the game’s best players.
In addition, PIF will make a capital investment into the new entity to facilitate its growth and success. The new entity (name TBD) will implement a plan to grow these combined commercial businesses, drive greater fan engagement and accelerate growth initiatives already underway. With LIV Golf in the midst of its second, groundbreaking season, the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and PIF will work together to best feature and grow team golf going forward.
Notably, today’s announcement will be followed by a mutually agreed end to all pending litigation between the participating parties. Further, the three organizations will work cooperatively and in good faith to establish a fair and objective process for any players who desire to re-apply for membership with the PGA Tour or the DP World Tour following the completion of the 2023 season and for determining fair criteria and terms of re-admission, consistent with each Tour’s policies.
“After two years of disruption and distraction, this is a historic day for the game we all know and love,” said PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. “This transformational partnership recognizes the immeasurable strength of the PGA Tour’s history, legacy and pro-competitive model and combines with it the DP World Tour and LIV – including the team golf concept – to create an organization that will benefit golf’s players, commercial and charitable partners and fans. Going forward, fans can be confident that we will, collectively, deliver on the promise we’ve always made – to promote competition of the best in professional golf and that we are committed to securing and driving the game’s future.
“We are pleased to move forward, in step with LIV and PIF’s world-class investing experience, and I applaud PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan for his vision and collaborative and forward-thinking approach that is not just a solution to the rift in our game, but also a commitment to taking it to new heights. This will engender a new era in global golf, for the better.”
“Today is a very exciting day for this special game and the people it touches around the world,” said PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan. “We are proud to partner with the PGA Tour to leverage PIF’s unparalleled success and track record of unlocking value and bringing innovation and global best practices to business and sectors worldwide. We are committed to unifying, promoting and growing the game of golf around the world and offering the highest-quality product to the many millions of long-time fans globally, while cultivating new fans.
“There is no question that the LIV model has been positively transformative for golf. We believe there are opportunities for the game to evolve while also maintaining its storied history and tradition. This partnership represents the best opportunity to extend and increase the impact of golf for all. We look forward to collaborating with Jay and Keith to bring the best version of the game to communities around the world.”
Under the terms of the agreement, the Board of Directors of the new entity will oversee and direct all the new entity’s golf-related commercial operations, businesses and investments. The new entity will work to ensure a cohesive schedule of events that will be exciting for fans, sponsors and all stakeholders. PIF will initially be the exclusive investor in the new entity, alongside the PGA Tour, LIV Golf and the DP World Tour. Going forward, PIF will have the exclusive right to further invest in the new entity, including a right of first refusal on any capital that may be invested in the new entity, including into the PGA Tour, LIV Golf and DP World Tour. The PGA Tour will appoint a majority of the Board and hold a majority voting interest in the combined entity.
Separately, PGA Tour Inc. will remain in place as a 501(c)(6) tax exempt organization and retains administrative oversight of events for those assets contributed by the PGA Tour, including the sanctioning of events, the administration of the competition and rules, as well as all other “inside the ropes” responsibilities, with Jay Monahan as Commissioner and Ed Herlihy as PGA Tour Policy Board Chairman. PIF’s Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan will join the PGA Tour Policy Board. The DP World Tour and LIV Golf will retain similar administrative oversight of events on their respective Tours.
The Board of Directors of the new commercial entity will include Al-Rumayyan as Chairman and Monahan as Chief Executive Officer; the new entity’s Board will also include an Executive Committee comprising Al-Rumayyan, Monahan, Herlihy and PGA Tour Policy Board member Jimmy Dunne. The full Board will be announced at a later date, and it is anticipated that all three founding members will have representation.
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive of the DP World Tour, said, “This is a momentous day. We are delighted to be able to not only reignite our relationship with PIF, but also to have the opportunity to build on our current Strategic Alliance partnership with the PGA Tour. Together we will be stronger than ever and well positioned to continue to bring the game to all corners of the globe. To partner in this new entity and influence the growth of the game for all our DP World Tour members is energizing and exciting.”
All parties will work in the months to come to finalize terms of the agreement, with details to be announced in due course.
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