WASHINGTON – The PGA Tour said Wednesday that it would appear next month before a Senate subcommittee whose leader asked executives from the tour, Saudi golf interests and LIV Golf to testify as Congress investigates the business deal that upended the sport.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., announced that the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations would hold a hearing on July 11 to examine the agreement involving the PGA Tour, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and the European tour to pool commercial business and rights in a new company.
“Our goal is to uncover the facts about what went into the PGA Tour’s deal with the Saudi Public Investment Fund and what the Saudi takeover means for the future of this cherished American institution and our national interest,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “Americans deserve to know what the structure and governance of this new entity will be. Major actors in the deal are best positioned to provide this information, and they owe Congress — and the American people — answers in a public setting.”
Blumenthal invited PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, Public Investment Fund Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan and LIV CEO Greg Norman to testify.
Monahan had sent a letter to various lawmakers June 9, three days after the PGA Tour’s stunning announcement of an agreement that would end all lawsuits between the PGA Tour and the Public Investment Fund. In the letter, he said the tour was “left on our own” to fend off Saudi Arabia’s bid to take over the sport with LIV Golf because of the United States’ geopolitical alliance with the kingdom.
In the last year, LIV Golf lured away some of golf’s biggest stars with signing bonuses of $100 million or more, prompting the PGA Tour to respond by pouring millions into its own tournament purses.
“We look forward to appearing before the Senate subcommittee to answer their questions about the framework agreement we believe keeps the PGA Tour as the leader of professional golf’s future and benefits our players, our fans and our sport," the tour said in a statement. "Already, the first phase of this framework has resulted in the end of costly litigation with LIV Golf.
“As we enter the next phase, we look forward to continuing the productive conversations we had last night with our players, listening to their feedback and working toward negotiating a final agreement that is in their best interest and ensures that the tour leads any new venture."
The tour said in the June 6 announcement that Al-Rumayyan would be chairman of the new company and Monahan would be the CEO. Two PGA Tour board members, Ed Herlihy and Jimmy Dunne, would join them on the executive committee.
Monahan has since stepped away from the tour for a “medical situation." Two of his top executives are in charge of the tour’s day-to-day operations. Al-Rumayyan has said Norman was not apprised of the deal until shortly before it was announced.
The Justice Department’s antitrust division has been reviewing the golf landscape since last summer, and now it also is starting to look at the tour’s agreement with the Saudis and whether it violates federal antitrust laws. The inquiry is in its early stages.