Key Senate Committee Opens Investigation Into Golf Merger

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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A Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee is opening an investigation into the proposed merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, according to two letters Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal sent Monday.

The PGA Tour and LIV Golf announced their intent to merge on June 6 after nearly two years of conflict that included indefinite suspensions for some of the sport’s biggest stars. The new tour will not form until 2024 and will be chaired by Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund, which bankrolls LIV. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan will hold a similar position in the new entity, which has drawn criticism from antitrust opponents and human rights advocates.

“PGA Tour’s agreement with PIF regarding LIV Golf raises concern’s about the Saudi government’s role in influencing this effort and the risks posed by a foreign government entity assuming control over a cherished American institution,” Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations chairman Blumenthal wrote to Monahan and LIV Golf commissioner Greg Norman. “Critics have cast such Saudi investments in sports as a means of ‘sportswashing’—an attempt to soften the country’s image around the world—given Saudi Arabia’s deeply disturbing human rights record at home and abroad.”

The broader sports world was blindsided by the merger announcement, particularly after Monahan decried LIV Golf in moral terms. 9/11 Families United, a group which represents family members of individuals killed in the terrorist attacks, blasted Monahan’s “betrayal.” PGA Tour players, some of whom turned down eight- and nine-figure offers to join LIV, found out about the deal in news reports.

Antitrust hawks have argued that the merger, which also includes the PGA Tour’s European component, violates anti-monopoly laws. Tim Wu, a Columbia University professor and ex-Biden administration official, told Vox that “the deal may be dead on arrival” if it’s a merger intended to “eliminate competition.” The PGA Tour was already facing an antitrust lawsuit from 11 suspended LIV participants.

That lawsuit will hurt the merged tour if and when it faces federal scrutiny, regulatory attorney Craig Seebald told the Wall Street Journal. (RELATED: Tiger Woods Claims LIV Golf Players Are Making Too Much Money To Care About Putting In The Work)

“You file a 150 page complaint saying they’re a monopolist, I don’t know how you turn around and say everything you say there is not true,” he said.

Blumenthal is demanding that the PGA and LIV produce all documents and communications produced by top executives in the lead-up to the merger, as well as records detailing the PGA Tour’s tax-exempt status.