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Senate to Reexamine PGA-LIVE Golf Deal

The contentious takeover of the PGA Tour by Saudi-backed LIV Golf is getting a fresh look as the Senate investigations subcommittee readies for an upcoming hearing set for next week.

The session marks the committee’s second dive into the acquisition of the PGA Tour by LIV Golf, an entity under the ownership of the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF).

Since June, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., the subcommittee chair, has persistently extended invitations to PIF Gov. Al-Rumayyan to appear before the committee to testify on this issue.

The request for his testimony has been an ongoing pursuit stemming from the moment when both entities jolted the golfing world by revealing a groundbreaking accord to forge a formidable golfing entity in collaboration with the European DP World Tour, thus sending shockwaves throughout the golfing community.

Al-Rumayyan has so far refused to testify before the subcommittee.

Akin Gump Strauss & Feld, the firm legally representing PIF, had this to say in a written response to the request: “The PIF is proud of its investments and believes that its support for forward-thinking companies will facilitate growth, economic opportunity, and job creation in the United States, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and around the world,” Akin Gump partner Raphael Prober wrote, according to The Hill

“As the governor of an instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a minister bound by the Kingdom’s laws regarding the confidentiality of certain information, however, [Al-Rumayyan] cannot participate in any public hearing that is part of an unbounded inquiry into the PIF’s past, present, and future interests and investments,” he added. 

The potential PGA-LIV deal ended the ongoing antitrust litigation between the parties but simultaneously attracted scrutiny from select Senate Democrats. These senators promptly summoned two key PGA Tour executives to face a grilling.

In July, PGA Tour Chief Operating Officer Ron Price and board member Jimmy Dunne, who played pivotal roles in mediating the truce between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, took their seats before the subcommittee to provide testimony, reported The Hill.

During that hearing, Blumenthal engaged in a rigorous questioning of the PGA Tour leadership. He probed them on their rationale behind accepting financial support from Saudi Arabia, particularly in light of the PGA Tour’s protracted lobbying efforts against LIV Golf spanning over a year.

“Today’s hearing is about much more than the game of golf,” Blumenthal said in the July hearing. “It’s about how a brutal, repressive regime can buy influence — indeed even take over a cherished American institution — to cleanse its public image,” alluding to an allegation of “sports washing.”

During the hearing, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., also voiced concerns about sports washing. Despite these concerns, he reiterated several times that the deal seemed to offer advantages to both parties, describing it as a “win-win” proposition, as reported by The Hill.

Dick Durbin the No. 2 Senate Democrat, had concerns of his own, telling reporters at the Capitol “the question obviously is whether or not there is any current laws involving foreign relations or foreign business dealings that haven’t been complied with.”

Jim Thomas

Jim Thomas is a writer based in Indiana. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, a law degree from U.I.C. Law School, and has practiced law for more than 20 years.

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