Golf: PGA seeks to sue Saudi Fund and its chief as LIV feud widens

The lobbying claim comes as the PGA and LIV spar over records sought by each side ahead of a trial set for January 2024. PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES - The PGA Tour has asked a judge to let it sue Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) and its chief Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyan as a dispute with its rival LIV Golf widens.

The US golf tour is seeking to add the US$676 billion (S$890 billion) sovereign wealth fund and its governor to its lawsuit that claims the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf is competing unfairly by luring PGA players with millions of dollars to breach their contracts.

“PIF and Mr Al-Rumayyan have personally recruited tour players, played an active role in contract negotiations, and expressly approved each of the player contracts – all while knowing that these deals would interfere with the players’ tour contracts,” the PGA Tour said in a filing on Tuesday in federal court in San Jose, California.

The PGA Tour asked for a May 18 hearing on its request, which must be approved by a judge.

The fight between the rival golf tours began with 11 professional golfers, including Phil Mickelson, Talor Gooch and Matt Jones, having sued the PGA Tour in August for suspending them after they joined LIV.

LIV joined the suit a month later, prompting Mickelson, Gooch and six others to withdraw. PGA then countersued, claiming LIV’s alleged interference with PGA players’ contracts harmed its brand and reputation.

LIV claims the PGA Tour is a monopolist keen on sabotaging a new rival.

The request to add the additional defendants also comes as the PGA and LIV are deadlocked over records sought by each side ahead of a trial set for January 2024.

The PGA has been wrangling with PIF over information the tour wants from the fund and its governor, with a ruling on that fight expected soon.

Meanwhile, LIV said in a court filing that former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice may have tried to influence the US Justice Department to not investigate the PGA Tour for possible antitrust violations.

LIV made the claim in a filing on Monday in its antitrust suit against the PGA, claiming that the PGA tried to use Rice, a member of the Augusta National Golf Club, to influence the DOJ.

LIV has subpoenaed a half dozen independent PGA directors and former PGA commissioner Tim Finchem for their communications with Rice and other Augusta National members who allegedly engaged in “anti-LIV” efforts, according to the filing in federal court.

“The glimpses LIV has seen of Augusta members’ involvement in the Tour’s alleged illegal conduct reveal why the Tour and its directors seek to conceal these communications from discovery,” LIV said in the filing.

PGA lawyer Elliot Peters blasted LIV’s claim about Rice, saying: “Trying to pretend she has the slightest thing to do with this lawsuit is ridiculous and pure harassment.” BLOOMBERG

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