Posted on: September 29, 2023, 09:13h.
Last updated on: September 29, 2023, 09:13h.
The PGA Tour in June agreed to settle its differences with LIV Golf, the Saudi-funded breakaway professional golf circuit.
In the agreement, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, will become a major investor in the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour will have a permanent controlling position on the newly formed entity’s board of directors regardless of how much PIF pumps into the preeminent golf tour.
Bloomberg reported this week that PIF might not be the only entity looking to become a major investor in the PGA Tour. The money media outlet says Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor Group Holdings, Fenway Sports Group, and billionaire Henry Kravis of global investment giant KKR & Co. are exploring ventures in the professional golf organization.
Reporters Gillian Tan and Lucas Shaw write in Bloomberg that the discussions “are preliminary and no transaction is guaranteed.” It’s also unclear if the PGA Tour would consider dissolving its PIF partnership in order to ease criticism or if the Tour is considering bringing on additional investors to further elevate purses and the nonprofit’s overall financial position.
LIV Golf has faced global criticism for what many believe to be the Saudis’ attempt to improve its image through “sportswashing,” a term used to describe the practice of a government using sports to enhance its reputation. The Saudi monarchy has been criticized for its alleged corruption and human rights abuses and has also been linked to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
PIF has “invested” billions into LIV Golf by handing out lucrative signing bonuses to players like Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, and Dustin Johnson and offering up tournament prize money that often more than triples a weekly PGA Tour purse. PIF isn’t getting a return on the LIV Golf spending, which has fueled the sportswashing allegations.
The PGA Tour issued a statement on the speculation
Throughout 2023, the PGA Tour has demonstrated its strength, reach, and value as an enterprise. Our focus continues to be on finalizing an agreement with the Public Investment Fund and the DP World Tour, however, our negotiations have resulted in unsolicited interest from other investors,” a PGA Tour spokesperson said in a statement.
Endeavor, Fenway, and Kravis have not commented publicly on the rumors.
Fenway Sports Group is controlled by billionaires John Henry and Tom Werner. They own the MLB Boston Red Sox and the team’s historic Fenway Park stadium, as well as the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins and Liverpool FC.
Endeavor is a Beverly Hills-based company that began as a talent agency and merged with William Morris Agency in 2009 to form William Morris Endeavor. The company later dropped William Morris from its brand, as it diversified its business focuses in recent years.
In 2016, Endeavor led a group that acquired the UFC from Station Casinos billionaires Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta for $4 billion. The mixed martial arts promoter has since gained much popularity and has become a major sport for US oddsmakers and their bettors.
Endeavor is also directly invested in the gaming industry through its acquisition of OpenBet. Endeavor bought the sports wagering business for $800 million in a transaction that was completed last year.