Deal Increases Saudi Arabia’s Influence in Golf

Alan Blinder

June 6, 2023, 4:15 p.m. ET

For month after month, the PGA Tour and LIV Golf were content to bludgeon one another in news conferences and court filings. But in the weeks after the Masters Tournament in early April, rival executives began a series of private meetings.

Convening first in London and then Venice and ultimately San Francisco, PGA Tour leaders met with representatives of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, including Yasir al-Rumayyan, the golf fiend who is the wealth fund’s governor. According to a person familiar with the discussions, who insisted on anonymity to describe private talks, the sides effectively reached an agreement around Memorial Day but kept word of it secret from even leading executives and players until Tuesday.

The nature of the agreement — for now — keeps the PGA Tour in control, thanks to a provision that allows it to have a majority of board seats in the new company that will house the tour and LIV Golf. The wealth fund will control a minority stake in the new company, but its exclusive right to invest in it going forward opens the door for Riyadh to grow its influence in the years ahead.

But in the interim, the fate of the LIV Golf league itself appears to rest most clearly with the PGA Tour and its allies, with the new company expected to undertake an extensive analysis of the LIV format to determine whether and how it can coexist with the long-dominant tour.

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