Negotiations between the PGA Tour and Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) to agree on a merger and create a new for-profit entity are looking likely to drag into the spring of 2024.
News that the PGA Tour plans to announce an extension of its self-imposed December 31 deadline to complete merger negotiations with the PIF emerged shortly after Christmas, and while no official statements have been issued by any of the parties involved, it has been widely reported that any potential alliance is going to require further negotiations that could possibly take until the end of March.
The future of a PGA Tour-Saudi deal has also been clouded by the PGA Tour entering negotiations with a consortium of US-based professional sports owners called Strategic Sports Group (SSG), led by Fenway Sports Group and including figures like the New York Mets’ Steve Cohen and the Atlanta Falcons’ Arthur Blank. Fenway Sports Group is the owner of Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox and also English Premier League club Liverpool. It is understood that SSG is prepared to inject more than $3 billion into the PGA Tour’s new for-profit entity.
It is understood that the Saudi PIF, lead by governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan, have become frustrated with the progress and by the fact that the number of tour professionals on the PGA Tour’s policy board – which includes Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay – meant that the players had gained control of veto powers that could still prevent any deal from going ahead.
Speaking before news of a potential delay emerged, Tiger Woods said: “We’re trying to get a deal done with all of the different entities that we have going on here. SSG has come into the mix now. They obviously have a lot of equity and a lot of investors that have the same alignment that we have, and we are all heading in the right direction.”
The announcement of world no.3 Jon Rahm’s $300m move to the PIF-backed LIV Golf League just two weeks ago is also likely to have had a significant impact in the timing of any potential deal. The original framework agreement announced in June between the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour and the PIF contained an agreement in which LIV Golf would not be allowed to poach any players away from those Tours during negotiations. That clause was later voided by the US Department of Justice due to antitrust concerns, allowing the Saudi-backed circuit to negotiate with and sign new players. Either way, luring Rahm away from the PGA Tour will not have helped soften relations between the respective negotiating teams.