PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan met with golfers in Toronto on Tuesday in what he said was a “heated” discussion over the surprise agreement to unify with the DP World Tour and the LIV Golf League into a larger commercial business.
“I would describe the meeting as intense, certainly heated,” Monahan told reporters via Zoom following an hour-plus meeting with PGA Tour golfers at the RBC Canadian Open. “This is a very complex — obviously it’s been a very dynamic and complex couple of years, and for players, I’m not surprised that — this is an awful lot to ask them to digest, and this is a significant change for us in the direction that we were going down.”
The landmark deal between the tours and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) was reached without the knowledge of PGA Tour members and LIV Golf players and agents.
The agreement ends all litigation between the parties and “combines PIF’s golf-related commercial businesses and rights (including LIV Golf) with the commercial businesses and rights of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour into a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity to ensure that all stakeholders benefit from a model that delivers maximum excitement and competition among the game’s best players.”
SInce the creation of the LIV Golf League, Monahan had frequently admonished players who had jumped from the PGA Tour to the PIF-backed league, saying at times that he didn’t see those players ever returning to the PGA Tour.
On Tuesday, Monahan called the reinstatement of those former PGA Tour members a “complicated endeavor and one that will be guided by established PGA Tour rules and regulations.”
“I recognize that people are going to call me a hypocrite,” Monahan said. “Anytime I said anything, I said it with the information that I had at that moment, and I said it based on someone that’s trying to compete for the PGA Tour and our players.
“I accept those criticisms, but circumstances do change. I think that in looking at the big picture and looking at it this way, that’s what got us to this point.”
According to the release, a board of directors will oversee the new entity’s golf-related commercial operations, businesses and investments. The groups will work to establish a cohesive schedule. PIF will be the exclusive investor in the new entity and will have the “exclusive right to further invest in the new enterprise, including a right of first refusal on any capital invested.
The PGA Tour will remain a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization, according to the release, and will retain oversight of the sanctioning of events, administration of competition and rules.
Al-Rumayyan, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, will join the policy board of the PGA Tour, which continues to operate its tournaments. Al-Rumayyan will be chairman of the new commercial group, with Monahan as the CEO and the PGA Tour having a majority stake in the new venture. The PIF will invest in the commercial venture.
“As I’m trying to explain — and I will continue to explain as we go forward — this ultimately is a decision that I think is in the best interest of all of the members of the PGA Tour, puts us in a position of control, allows us to partner with the PIF in a constructive and productive way, to have them invest with us, again, running the PGA Tour, having these three entities under one for-profit LLC.”
The PIF had invested more than $2 billion into the LIV Golf enterprise, which critics have claimed is a form of sportswashing to repair the Saudi Arabian monarchy’s history of human rights violations.
ESPN’s Mark Schlabach contributed to this report.
Jay Monahan meeting with PGA Tour golfers gets ‘heated’