LIV Teams: According to papers obtained by Congress, PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) negotiators contemplated dismissing LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman and giving Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy their own squads.
Those were among the numerous options to unite golf’s warring groups that PGA Tour and Saudi government representatives considered during their hurried discussions this spring, which culminated in a framework agreement revealed last month between the two organisations.
The agreement to bring Saudi funding into the PGA Tour stunned the golf world and drew the attention of Congress and the Justice Department, which is investigating potential antitrust breaches.
The records outlining the discussions were published by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, led by Senator Richard Blumenthal, ahead of a hearing on Tuesday, where PGA Tour COO Ron Price and board member Jimmy Dunne testified.
In his opening remarks, Blumenthal stated that he wanted to learn the reasons for the participation of a “brutal, repressive regime” in a renowned American sports institution whose executives had previously made moral arguments against LIV players accepting Saudi money.
“We’re here to discuss questions about the future of this sport and other sports in the United States, and what happened that caused the PGA Tour to change its position,” Blumenthal added.
“Was it just the hope of putting an end to the litigation, or was it also the unspecified amount of Saudi investment that would result? How much money did PIF give the PGA Tour, and what other sources of funding were considered as alternatives?”
Critics of Saudi investment in golf have referred to the kingdom’s terrible human rights record, while PIF has purchased stakes in other sports such as football, boxing, and Formula One.
The records made public on Tuesday also reveal the involvement of individuals on the Saudi side of the discussions, most notably Amanda Staveley, a British investment banker who helped negotiate the Newcastle United purchase and currently sits on the club’s board, and Roger Devlin, a British businessman.
According to the records, Devlin was the first to approach PGA circuit board member Jimmy Dunne about the possibility of a partnership between the circuit and LIV.