PGA Tour seeks to add Saudi fund to LIV lawsuit

PGA Tour seeks to add Saudi fund to LIV lawsuit

Attorneys representing the PGA Tour are seeking to add Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the fund’s governor, Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyan, as defendants in the tour’s countersuit against LIV Golf.

In a motion for leave filed to a U.S. District Court in Northern California on Tuesday, the PGA Tour’s attorneys argued that recently produced documents from LIV Golf confirm that the PIF and Al-Rumayyan played an active role in causing golfers to breach their contracts with the PGA Tour by joining the LIV Golf circuit.

“As set forth in the existing counterclaim, LIV intentionally and knowingly caused these players to breach their contractual obligations to the TOUR by mispresenting TOUR contracts; inducing these breaches by offering highly lucrative contracts that make it impossible for players to comply with their TOUR contracts; and providing extensive indemnification and hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate LIV players for these breaches,” PGA Tour attorneys wrote in the motion. “Recently produced documents confirm that PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan played an active and central role in orchestrating these breaches for their own benefit and are equally liable for the harm caused to the TOUR.”

In August, several players who were suspended by the PGA Tour for playing in LIV Golf tournaments without conflicting-event releases filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour, alleging it was using its monopoly power to squash competition and discouraged broadcasters and other vendors from working with LIV Golf. LIV Golf and three of its players are the remaining plaintiffs in the case.

The PGA Tour filed a countersuit, alleging LIV Golf interfered with its contracts with players.

The PGA Tour’s lawyers wrote in Tuesday’s motion that LIV Golf, which is being funded by PIF, was the end result of a plan known as Project Wedge, which was “designed to provide a roadmap to taking over professional golf as part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.” Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is reportedly worth $620 billion.

The PGA Tour’s lawyers allege that LIV Golf’s subscriptions and shareholders’ agreement, which they obtained through discovery in December, was the “lynchpin which demonstrated PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan’s total control over LIV and established that any LIV contract with a player requires authorization by PIF.”

“In addition to exercising near absolute authority over LIV, 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,” PGA Tour lawyers wrote in the motion.

“In addition to approving player contracts that pledge to indemnify such players from breach of their contractual obligations to the TOUR, Mr. Al-Rumayyan himself has gone as far as to provide personal assurances to at least one player about his and PIF’s commitment to backing such player in any legal claims by the TOUR.”

In previous motions, LIV Golf’s attorneys have argued that the PGA Tour is exaggerating the PIF’s control of the new circuit. In a sworn statement, Al-Rumayyan said the fund only provided “high level oversight” of LIV.

According to court documents, the PIF owns at least 93% of LIV Golf. Former LIV Golf COO and president Atul Khosla told ESPN in October that the circuit, which is being fronted by two-time Open winner Greg Norman, spent more than $784 million in operating expenses during its inaugural season in 2022. Khosla resigned from his position in December.

The PGA Tour’s lawyers have unsuccessfully sought documents from the PIF through discovery and so far have been unable to depose Al-Rumayyan. The attorneys alleged in the court filing that the PIF and Al-Rumayyan believe “that no court in the United States has jurisdiction over them, they are immune from compulsory process, and they have no information or documents relevant to the case.”

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