PGA Tour-LIV merger Senate Hearing: Live updates from this morning’s hearing
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On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate will hold a hearing on the proposed deal between the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which runs LIV Golf. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET. Follow along below for live updates from the hearing in Washington D.C.
The hearing is entitled “The PGA-LIV Deal: Implications for the Future of Golf and Saudi Arabia’s Influence in the United States.” Senators are expected to question some of the major players in the deal, though PGA Tour CEO Jay Monahan, PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan and LIV CEO Greg Norman will not be in attendance.
Leading the hearing will be Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), the subcommittee’s chairman, and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the subcommittee’s ranking member. As Blumenthal detailed in a June 21 letter to Monahan, the intent of the session is to “examine the planned agreement … the future of the PIF-funded LIV Golf, the risks associated with a foreign government’s investment in American cultural institutions, and the implications of this planned agreement on professional golf in the United States going forward.”
LIVE UPDATES FROM PGA TOUR-LIV SENATE HEARING
1:02 p.m. ET: That’s a wrap. Stay tuned to GOLF.com for lots more coming from today’s hearing.
12:50 p.m. ET: Sen. Blumenthal speaking to Jimmy Dunne:
“You are not out of the woods. They (Saudi Arabia) are going to continue to yield the influence that they do. Whatever the good intentions and good rhetoric now, you still have to reach a deal. So my hope is that you will resist those buckets full of money. I think a lot of players, sponsors, charities and frankly the 9/11 families are hoping the PGA Tour will stand up and frankly avoid the sellout that this deal seems to be.
“Because that disruptive, uneconomic effect is exactly what we need to resist as a nation. If we are going to be selling out to countries that can throw around hundreds of billions of dollars, we are going to lose, not just financially, we are going to lose in terms of our democracy and freedom.”
12:19 p.m. ET: Sen. Blumenthal asks Ron Price about Greg Norman’s future. Price says if an agreement is made, LIV events would be managed by the PGA Tour.
“So just to be clear, he’s out of a job?” Sen. Blumenthal asked.
“If we reach a definitive agreement, we would not have a requirement for that type of position,” says Price.
12:08 p.m. ET: Sen. Hawley goes back to Ron Price and asks about PGA Tour’s status in China. “We have no plans to continue that tour,” Price says.
11:50 a.m. ET: Sen. Johnson suggests that since the deal has not been finalized, the government should give the PGA Tour and PIF the space to negotiate and then come back once a agreement has been reached.
“I believe their motivations are pure. They’re trying to save this game.”
Dunne reiterates he appreciates Sen. Blumenthal’s concerns over the deal.
11:38 a.m. ET: Sen. Blumenthal: “The simple fact here is that the Saudi government is dominant owner here… It has the money and the money is the reason you surrendered in this agreement… I think the American people can see through some of things you say with the best intentions.”
11:35 a.m. ET: Sen. Blumenthal questioned whether or not the PGA Tour could have raised enough money to combat LIV GOLF privately.
11:25 a.m. ET: Ron Price to Missouri Senator Josh Hawley on taking a potential $1 billion investment from Saudi Arabia: “We faced a choice. One was to allow professional golf to be taken over and operated by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The second was to continue and lead it in accordance with our values and charities.”
11:15 a.m. ET: When asked who stands to gain the most from the deal financially, Dunne says it’s Yasir Al-Rumayyan. “I hope that in a more constructive way, Yasir gets a more productive role in the game of golf.”
Price answered the same question by saying it was the players, fans, sponsors, etc.
11:00 a.m. ET: Documents released ahead of the hearing show a proposed “best of both worlds” outcome to PGA Tour leadership had Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods would each own LIV Golf teams and play in 10 LIV events a year. Additionally, PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan would gain an R&A membership AND Augusta National membership.
10:50 a.m. ET: In testimony, Dunne details the threat LIV could have been to the Tour if a deal was not reached.
“The PGA Tour is not that big in terms of players. If [LIV] take five players a year, in five years they can gut us.”
10:45 a.m. ET: Sen. Blumenthal reveals documents stated Greg Norman would be removed as LIV CEO and placed in a new role determined by the PIF if the deal goes through.
10:40 a.m. ET: In his opening statement, PGA Tour Policy Board member Jimmy Dunne says that if the PGA Tour-LIV Golf war continued, “golf as we know it would be damaged forever.” Explains that the only firm detail of the framework agreement is the end of all litigation. Very ademant the PGA Tour will retain complete control.
10:30 a.m. ET: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) speaks next, offering opening remarks, saying in part: “Sportswashing is also a legitimate issue, but no amount of money can wash away the stain of the brutal Khashoggi assassination and other human rights abuses. But it would be grossly unfair to expect the PGA Tour to bear the full burden of holding Saudi Arabi accountable. After all, anyone who drives a car or who uses oil-based products has helped fill the coffers of the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
“Foreign investment in the U.S. is generally a good thing, and I would rather have the Saudis reinvest their oil wealth in America as opposed to China or Russia. Also, if the Kingdom’s involvement in golf and other sports helps it to modernize and offer more rights to women, wouldn’t that be a good thing?”
He added, “There is nothing wrong with the PGA Tour negotiating its survival.”
10:20 a.m. ET: Sen. Blumenthal thanks PGA Tour COO Ron Price and PGA Tour Policy Board member Jimmy Dunne for agreeing to appear at the hearing.
10:15 a.m. ET:
10:10 a.m. ET: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) opens the proceedings with an introductory speech, noting that the PGA Tour is a “cherished American institution” and that the purpose of the hearing is to probe how the involvement of Saudi Arabia, whose government he called a “repressive regime,” will affect the Tour and game of golf in the future.
9:50 a.m. ET: GOLF.com Executive Editor Alan Bastable is in attendance in D.C. He reports that the hearing was “originally scheduled for smaller room but due to interest was moved to bigger space: Hart 216, same room where Supreme Court confirm hearings are conducted.”