A leaked “framework” agreement uniting golf’s PGA Tour, DP World Tour (formerly European Tour), and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit has detailed the creation of a for-profit subsidiary to manage commercial investments and assets for all tours.
The five-page document, signed by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, DP World Tour managing director Keith Pelly, and PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan, was sent to US lawmakers yesterday (June 26) as part of an antitrust review by US senators Richard Blumenthal and Ron Johnson but was immediately leaked to multiple news outlets, including the Associated Press and Reuters.
According to the agreement, the for-profit assets of the three circuits will be combined into a new subsidiary tentatively called NewCo. After an evaluation of those assets, the PIF, which owns 93% of LIV Golf, will make a minority investment into the new entity.
NewCo will be an umbrella for all future golf-related investments of the three groups and plans to create financial returns through “targeted mergers and acquisitions to globalize the sport.” The PIF, meanwhile, will invest in both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour as a “premier corporate sponsor.”
The agreement adds: “The PGA Tour will at all times maintain a controlling voting interest in NewCo, and PIF will continue to hold a non-controlling voting interest, notwithstanding any incremental investment by PIC or exercise of its right of first refusal.”
In terms of governance, the document outlines that Monahan will be the chief executive of NewCo, while Al-Rumayyan will serve as chair of the new entity’s board of directors.
The deal will also see the creation of a communications committee to “help facilitate a smooth business transition” that will consist of PGA Tour policy board members Ed Herlihy and Jimmy Dunne – the architects of the agreement.
The agreement also calls for the three parties to “cooperate in good faith and use best efforts to secure [world ranking] recognition for LIV events and players under the [world ranking] criteria for considering LIV’s pending application [for world ranking points].”
LIV Golf requested its events receive world ranking points last year, but the application is still pending. The circuit currently fails to meet several criteria due to having no cuts and 48-man fields.
As previously stated, the agreement will see an end to all litigation between the PGA Tour, LIV Golf, and PIF “with prejudice,” meaning the lawsuits cannot be re-filed. It will also provide a pathway back to the PGA Tour and DP World Tour for players who joined LIV Golf after the 2023 season.
It also prevents LIV from approaching any more PGA Tour players this year.
Blumenthal and Johnson, members of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, have requested Monahan, LIV Golf chief executive Greg Norman, and Al-Rumayyan to attend a hearing on July 11 in Washington, DC, to review the agreement over possible antitrust concerns.
The document said it hopes to reach a definitive deal by December 31, 2023.
The golfing world was thrown into chaos earlier this month with the shock announcement that the PGA Tour and DP World Tour had agreed to merge their commercial operations with the golf businesses of the PIF, ending its bitter war with the LIV Golf series.
The deal was negotiated secretly over seven weeks without the knowledge of the PGA Tour members, including members of the Player Advisory Council and the Policy Board, or broadcast partners.
The subsequent fall-out saw players call for Monahan's resignation during an “intense and certainly heated” meeting, while human rights groups have criticized him and the tour for their sudden U-turn after spending 18 months using the issue to paint Saudi Arabia’s entry into professional golf as a sportswashing exercise.
A week later, the PGA Tour announced Monahan had handed day-to-day control of the organization to two senior executives while recovering from an undisclosed medical situation.
Blumenthal then requested all documents relating to the tie-up after launching an investigation, including any communication relating to the agreement between board members and executive management for both organizations and any internal communications about how the agreement could impact the tour’s tax-exempt status.
The due date for providing the documents ended yesterday.