PGA Tour affirms commitment to LIV Golf and DP World Tour merger despite expected deadline extension
The PGA Tour has expressed its ongoing dedication to completing the proposed merger with LIV Golf and the DP World Tour, even as expectations rise that the deal may not meet the initial December 31 deadline.
Initially revealed in June, the contentious merger aims to combine the commercial operations of the three golf tours into a unified entity, backed by Saudia Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), the financial supporter of LIV Golf.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, acknowledging the complexity of negotiations, remains optimistic about finalising the deal by the end of 2023 despite encountering various obstacles. The surprise nature of the agreement led to PGA Tour players expressing discontent and triggered a US Senate subcommittee investigation.
Reports from Bloomberg in October indicated that the merger might not conclude this year due to a US Justice Department probe into antitrust concerns, financial aspects of PIF’s investment, and the intricacies of navigating each tour’s broadcast contracts and brand sponsorships.
In a memo to players dated November 14, Monahan reassured them of the PGA Tour’s commitment to the merger, emphasising the deliberate pace of progress. The framework agreement attracted interest from external investors, including Fenway Sports Group (FSG), Liberty Strategic Capital, Acorn Growth Companies, Eldridge Industries and a group referred to as ‘Friends of Golf’.
“We continue to remain focused on our negotiations towards a Definitive Agreement with PIF and the DP World Tour as our priority,” Jay Monahan tells players in a memo after PGA Tour Policy Board meeting.#PGATour #PIF #golf #DPWorldTour #merger pic.twitter.com/GHizNOPfWt
— Today’s Golfer (@TheTodaysGolfer) November 14, 2023
Monahan stated that the final minority investor or investors would be chosen in a timely manner. In the event of a successful merger, the PGA Tour plans to offer its members direct ownership in the newly formed corporation, presenting a unique opportunity in professional sports.
“This would be a unique offering in professional sports, as no other league grants its players/members direct equity ownership in the league’s business,” Monahan wrote in his memo.
“We recognise – as do all of the prospective minority investors who are in dialogue with us – that the PGA Tour will be stronger with our players more closely aligned with the commercial success of the business.”
As a result, the PGA Tour’s board ad hoc committee focused on tour governance will expedite its progress. Joe Gorder, executive chairman of Valero Energy, has joined the PGA Tour policy board as an independent director.
Meanwhile, four-time major winner Rory McIlroy has resigned from his player director role on the PGA Tour policy board after two years.
“Citing personal and professional commitments, Rory McIlroy has notified the PGA Tour policy board that he is resigning his position as a player director,” a PGA Tour statement read.
— Marking The Spot (@Marking_TheSpot) November 15, 2023
“During his tenure, Rory’s insight has been instrumental in helping shape the success of the tour and his willingness to thoughtfully voice his opinion has been especially impactful,” said Monahan.
“Given the extraordinary time and effort that Rory – and all of his fellow player directors – have invested in the tour during this unprecedented, transformational period in our history, we certainly under and respect his decision to step down in order to focus on his game and his family.”
Having been a part of the board since 2021, McIlroy had dedicated three years to serving on the player advisory council. When questioned about the outlook for men’s professional golf, McIlroy emphasised that discussions were advancing but hinted at the challenges associated with his role as a player director.
Image credit: Michael Stokes