PGA leaders defend decision to support LIV deal in Senate hearing

PGA Tour executive Ron Price and board member Jimmy Dune testified before the Senate Homeland Security Committee's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on Tuesday, defending the PGA's decision to merge with LIV Golf, a controversial, Saudi-backed entity. Price and Dune argued that the PGA faced a significant threat in its litigation against LIV and that going through with the merger would allow the PGA to maintain control of the game.

During the hearing, senators raised concerns about the PGA's past criticisms of LIV and the Saudi Arabian government's human rights violations. However, Price and Dune assured the panel that the PGA would remain in control of the new entity and that continuing the litigation against LIV would have resulted in the Saudi-backed group becoming the leader of professional golf.

Senators had mixed opinions on the proposed deal. Some, like Sen. Ron Johnson, acknowledged that the PGA was financially outmatched in its fight against the Saudis and viewed LIV as an existential threat. Others, like Sen. Richard Blumenthal, expressed concerns about a "brutal, repressive" regime gaining influence and stated that the subcommittee would further investigate the deal.

LIV Golf, financially supported by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, has been competing with the PGA Tour since its launch in 2021. The PGA responded by barring its players from participating in LIV events and filing lawsuits against LIV for enticing golfers to break their contracts. The rivalry between the two entities culminated in a merger agreement in June, which would end all pending litigation and create a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity. Under the agreement, the PGA would control the majority of the new board, while the governor of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia would serve as chairman.

While details of the deal are still being finalized, PGA Tour executive Ron Price revealed that the PIF could commit over $1 billion to the new entity. The proposed merger and the involvement of Saudi Arabia's PIF have faced criticism and are currently the subject of a Justice Department investigation.

The Senate hearing shed light on the complex factors at play in the PGA's decision to merge with LIV Golf. The PGA argued that the merger was necessary to maintain control of the game in the face of a significant threat, while senators expressed concerns about the influence of a regime with a questionable human rights record. The investigation into the deal and potential further questioning of witnesses by the subcommittee indicate that this issue is far from resolved.


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