Golf’s PGA Tour has finalized its investment deal with Strategic Sports Group (SSG), a US consortium, worth up to $3 billion.
Through the strategic tie-up, the organization has launched PGA Tour Enterprises, a new commercial venture under its control.
In what is described as a first-of-its-kind program, nearly 200 PGA Tour members will have the opportunity to become equity holders in the new company.
Under the program, players would collectively access over $1.5 billion in equity in PGA Tour Enterprises.
The entity is also considering participation by future PGA Tour players “that would allow them to benefit from the business’s commercial growth.”
The grants will be based on career accomplishments, recent achievements, future participation and services, and PGA Tour membership status, and grants are only available to qualified PGA Tour players.
This is widely viewed as a financial reward to players who did not defect to the rival Saudi-backed LIV Golf circuit, including the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, who will serve as chief executive of PGA Tour Enterprises, said: “This marks an important moment for the PGA Tour and fans of golf across the world.
“By making PGA Tour members owners of their league, we strengthen the collective investment of our players in the success of the PGA Tour. Fans win when we all work to deliver the best in sports entertainment and return the focus to the incredible – and unmatched – competitive atmosphere created by our players, tournaments, and partners.
“And partnering with SSG – a group with extensive experience and investment across sports, media, and entertainment – will enhance our organization’s ability to make the sport more rewarding for players, tournaments, fans, and partners.”
The deal between SSG and the PGA Tour values the organization at around $12 billion. Until now, the PGA Tour has operated on a non-profit basis and without private equity provided by SSG.
SSG is a consortium of American sports team owners led by Fenway Sports Group (FSG).
As part of PGA Tour Enterprises, SSG will invest an initial $1.5 billion and “provide strategic focus on maximizing revenue generation for the benefit of the players and on finding opportunities to enhance the game of golf across the world.”
FSG will also serve as commercial advisor to the new enterprise.
The consortium includes the likes of John Henry and Tom Werner (Boston Red Sox through Fenway Sports Group), Arthur Blank (Atlanta Falcons), and Wyc Grousbeck from the Boston Celtics. Discussions between SSG and the PGA Tour were first unveiled in mid-December.
Initial reports linking FSG and sports and entertainment heavyweight Endeavor to PGA Tour investment came in September.
PGA Tour Player Directors Patrick Cantlay, Peter Malnati, Adam Scott, Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth and Woods said in a joint statement: “We were proud to vote in unanimous support of this historic partnership between PGA Tour Enterprises and SSG.
“It was incredibly important for us to create opportunities for the players of today and in the future to be more invested in their organization, both financially and strategically.”
The PGA Tour will now switch its focus to concluding its partnership with the Saudi state’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). The body said the transaction with SSG allows for a co-investment from PIF in the future, subject to all necessary regulatory approvals.
The Saudi fund and the tour had announced a framework to reach an understanding around a merger in mid-2023, but since then no final agreement has been unveiled. It has now been reported that a deadline for any such agreement has been pushed back to April.
The PGA Tour confirmed progress in its ongoing negotiations with PIF on a potential future investment and said both parties “are working towards an ultimate agreement.” SSG has consented to an investment by PIF, subject to any necessary regulatory review and approvals.
The tour’s deal with PIF and the LIV Golf series from last June looked like a seminal moment in golf at the time, and followed many months of acrimony between the two parties, based on LIV’s payments securing the services of various top-tier PGA Tour players.
However, following what looked like an agreement framework being announced last June, a deadline for a deal of December 31 was then missed.
PGA Tour Enterprises was planned to be the new for-profit company at the center of the framework agreement uniting the PGA Tour, DP World Tour (formerly European Tour), and LIV Golf.
According to the framework agreement, the for-profit assets of the three circuits would be combined into PGA Tour Enterprises. After an evaluation of those assets, PIF, which owns 93% of LIV Golf, would make a minority investment into the new entity.
PGA Tour Enterprises 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.” PIF, meanwhile, would invest in both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour as a “premier corporate sponsor.”
Externally, however, the deal has caught the attention of the US government and is under investigation by the US Senate. Subpoenas were handed out to PIF’s US subsidiaries in September demanding the release of documents related to PIF’s ‘framework agreement’ with the PGA Tour and “related investments throughout the US” after it refused to comply with the Senate’s original request voluntarily.