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PGA Tour officials defend LIV Golf deal in Senate hearing

Price also said the tour didn’t seek out the Saudis. “We are in a situation where we faced a real threat … you could go elsewhere for $1 billion, $3 billion, maybe $50 billion,” he said. “We could do it but if we went down that path, we would end up giving up total control.”

The Senate panel is probing the agreement, which would merge the commercial operations of the golf leagues. The proposed deal with LIV has triggered questions regarding the future of the tour and its players’ sponsorships.

The tour rakes in billions of dollars between sponsorships and media rights deals that air its events on television. The PGA Tour has a nine-year deal, which began in 2022, with Comcast, Paramount Global and Disney that brings in $700 million in annual fees, according to previous reports. The PGA tour also signed a 12-year $2 billion deal with Warner Bros. Discovery in 2018 for international TV rights, although it was restructured earlier this year.

In a framework agreement, the proposed deal shows it would create a for-profit subsidiary of the PGA Tour, and the new entity would manage commercial assets for all the tours. The PGA Tour would manage competitions, and has said it is leading the negotiations to reach a finalized deal.

Documents obtained by the subcommittee show that PCP Capital Partners, an investment firm headquartered in the United Arab Emirates, proposed a long-term agreement to PGA Tour Policy Board Chairman Edward Herlihy and Dunne as early as April.

The proposal included an idea that would have superstars Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy own LIV Golf teams and participate in at least 10 league events. McIlroy is one of the most outspoken critics of the PGA Tour’s LIV deal.

The subcommittee also discovered that PGA Tour officials requested to dismiss Norman and golf marketing agency Performance54 from LIV Golf after the completion of the deal. It is unclear which professional players, including McIlroy and Woods, had knowledge of the negotiations before the agreement was unveiled last month, according to the documents.

The June merger announcement shocked the sports world, with many critics on Capitol Hill accusing LIV, which is funded by the PIF, of “sportswashing,” or spreading government influence through sports.

“A regime that has killed journalists, jailed and tortured dissidents, fostered the war in Yemen, and supported other terrorist activities, including 9/11. It’s called sportswashing,” subcomittee chairman Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said in a statement.

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