- Monahan alluded to the ‘complex geopolitical alliance’ of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia
- He said PGA will still hold majority of the Board seats and will have ‘full control’ of U.S. golf
- Sen. Richard Blumenthal announced a probe into the deal Monday
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has blamed Congress in part for the shock merger with Saudi Arabia’s LIV Golf, saying Congress left the American golf tour organizer “on our own” when its Saudi rival league tried to “buy” PGA players in the past two years.
“Over the past two years, the PGA TOUR has fought an intense and highly publicized battle as the Saudi Arabian PIF-backed LIV golf league attempted to ‘buy’ PGA TOUR players and take over the game of golf in the United States and beyond, creating a fractured golf ecosystem and fomenting a heated divisiveness into the game,” Monahan wrote in a letter to Congress obtained by Politico.
Monahan said PGA met with several Congress members and policy experts to discuss LIV’s attempts “to take over the game of golf” in the United States and suggested lawmakers ways on how Congress can support PGA in the “intense battle.”
“While we are grateful for the written declarations of support we received from certain members, we were largely left on our own to fend off the attacks, ostensibly due to the United States’ complex geopolitical alliance with the Kingdom,” Monahan said in the letter dated June 9, which was published by Politico on Monday.
Monahan then clarified that PGA Tour will remain “in full control” of the American golf ecosystem, with PIF (Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund) as a “minority investor.”
“Let me be clear that despite numerous reports, this arrangement is not a merger between PGA TOUR, LIV Golf, and the PIF,” he wrote.
While the letter did not specify what type of help the PGA was expecting from Congress, some LIV critics reportedly used their position to call for an investigation into LIV Golf’s dealings in the United States, including Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, as per Politico.
Amid questions about the extent of PIF’s hand in the agreement, Monahan said PGA Tour will “at all times” hold the majority of the Board’s seats regardless of how much PIF invests into the “new entity.”
News of Monahan’s letter to Congress came days after the community of families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks criticized the “merger,” saying that PGA Tour has become “just more paid Saudi shills.”
The community, 9/11 Families United, said loved ones were “shocked and deeply offended” by the latest developments, reminding the public that “Saudi operatives played a role in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and now it is bankrolling all of professional golf.”
Earlier last week, PGA Tour announced its “landmark agreement” with PIF to combine its golf-related commercial businesses and rights – including LIV Golf – with PGA Tour and European DP World Tour “into a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity.”
Several PGA players said they were not made aware of the organizer’s surprise move, including Michael Kim, Mackenzie Hughes, and Dylan Wu.
Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who chairs the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, has launched a probe into PGA Tour’s merger with PIF.
Blumenthal tweeted a copy of the letter he sent to Monahan on Monday, wherein the Connecticut senator said the agreement between PGA and LIV “raises concerns 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.”
Blumenthal said the Senate subcommittee wants PGA Tour to provide “all records referring or relating to the relationship [of PGA and PIF]” and all records related to the agreement between the concerned parties by June 26.
Blumenthal isn’t the first senator to raise questions about the deal, as Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., previously warned he would “dive into every piece” of the PIF’s deal with PGA, which Wyden said was a “brazen, shameless cash grab.”
“U.S. officials need to consider whether a deal will give the Saudi regime inappropriate control or access,” Wyden tweeted.
Monahan previously defended the agreement, telling CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” in a joint interview with PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan that the deal’s goal was to “unify” golf and “expand this great game.”
Al-Rumayyan, on his part, said the “partnership” will have “a really big” impact on the sport that should make golf “very much accessible just like any other sport” such as football and basketball since golf didn’t have the same accessibility to fans around the world.