PGA Tour defends LIV Golf agreement prior to Senate hearing

The PGA Tour is facing scrutiny and defending its deal with Saudi-backed LIV Golf ahead of a Senate hearing scheduled for Tuesday. The tour's Chief Operating Officer, Ron Price, released an op-ed in The Athletic defending the deal and emphasizing that it should not be considered a merger. Price acknowledged the valid questions raised by PGA Tour members, partners, media, fans, and Congress due to the legal disputes between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. This defense comes after a recent shakeup on the PGA Tour's policy board, with former AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson resigning amid the possibility of a broad probe into the merger.

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Ron Johnson, chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, have called the Senate hearing and requested officials from the PGA Tour and Saudi Public Investment Fund to appear. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, who has been on medical leave, will not be present, but Ron Price and policy board independent director Jimmy Dunne will testify. The senators aim to examine the proposed deal, the Saudi fund's investment in golf in the US, and the implications for professional golf in the country.

The proposed merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf came as a surprise, considering the previous antitrust lawsuits between the two entities. Price defended the deal as a favorable outcome that would benefit the tour and professional golf as a whole, claiming it would provide safeguards and control over the tour's operations and strategy. Price also emphasized that the deal is not a merger, as the tour would remain intact and the newly formed subsidiary would include the Saudi Public Investment Fund as a non-controlling minority investor.

Controversy surrounds LIV Golf due to its association with the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which critics accuse of using sports investments to improve the image of the oil-rich nation and divert attention from human rights violations. Randall Stephenson's resignation from the policy board cited concerns about the deal, referencing a US intelligence report that implicated Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Lawmakers, including top Senate Democrats, have raised antitrust concerns and called for an inquiry into the merger.

The Senate hearing on the PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger marks the committee's second hearing this year. Members of the group 9/11 Families United have criticized the deal, citing the Saudi Arabian connections to the September 11th terrorist attacks. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan's previous remarks comparing the moral standing of the PGA Tour and LIV Golf have also drawn criticism.


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