Senate Committee To Investigate PGA-LIV Golf Agreement

A Senate committee has launched an investigation into the agreement between the PGA and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League, announced last week despite legal and public acrimony between the two organizations.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), the chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said that the investigation “is key to understanding the potential risks posed by the Saudi government assuming control of this cherished American institution.”

In a letter to PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan, Blumenthal wrote that the U.S. golf league’s “sudden and drastic reversal of position concerning LIV Golf raise serious questions regarding the reasons for and terms behind the announced agreement.”

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Blumenthal is requesting documents and other information related to the agreement. He cited concerns that the Saudi investments are a form of sportswashing, or softening its image despite a “deeply disturbing human rights record at home and abroad.”

“In fact, prior to this agreement, PGA Tour was one of the loudest critics of LIV Golf’s affiliation with Saudi Arabia.” Monahan was the target of intense criticism when the deal was announced, given his past focus on LIV’s links to Saudi Arabia.

Under the terms of the deal, the Saudi Public Investment Fund will invest in a new subsidiary of the PGA Tour, which is still unnamed and will be a for-profit entity. The PGA will control a majority of board seats of the new entity, with the PIF a minority investor. Monahan will serve as CEO of the new venture.

Blumenthal questioned the PGA Tour’s plans to preserve its tax-exempt status, raising concerns that a foreign government would then “indirectly benefit” from laws meant to promote not-for-profit business associations.

Blumenthal gave Monahan until June 26 to respond. According to ESPN, he sent a similar letter to Greg Norman, CEO of LIV Golf.

A spokesperson for the PGA said, “We are confident that once Congress learns more about how the PGA Tour will control this new venture, they will understand the opportunities this will create for our players, our communities and our sport, all while protecting an American golf institution.”

Politico reported that Monahan responded to concerns from senators shortly after the deal was announced last week.

He wrote, “At its core, the PIF is investing in the PGA Tour as it has invested in other U.S.-based companies. The PGA Tour and its tournaments will continue to operate as they do today, generating significant charitable and economic impact in the communities where they are played.”

He wrote that during the PGA’s battle with LIV Golf, they met with several members of Congress to

During this intense battle, we met with several Members of Congress and policy experts to “discuss the PIF’s attempt to take over the game of golf in the United States, and suggested ways
that Congress could support us in these efforts.” But he added that despite that support, the PGA Tour “largely left on our own to fend off the attacks, ostensibly due to the United States’ complex geopolitical alliance with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This left the very real prospect of another decade of expensive and distracting litigation and the PGA Tour’s long-term existence under threat.”

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