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PGA Tour’s deal with Saudi LIV Golf draws Senate panel investigation

Buggies ride past team signage ahead of day one of the LIV Golf Invitational - Singapore at Sentosa Golf Club on April 28, 2023, in Singapore. (Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images/TNS)

Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden notified top officials with the PGA Tour that he’s opening a wide-ranging probe into the PGA’s surprise tie-up with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

The Senate panel’s investigation adds to widening scrutiny of the pact. The Justice Department has opened an antitrust investigation of the deal, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said Thursday the combination raises questions about foreign investment in US real estate that could be adjacent to military facilities and sensitive manufacturing businesses, executive compensation for PGA Tour officials and whether the PGA Tour should maintain its tax-exempt status.

“The PGA Tour’s involvement with PIF raises significant questions about whether organizations that tie themselves to an authoritarian regime that has continually undermined the rule of law should continue to enjoy tax-exempt status in the United States,” Wyden said in a letter to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan IV and Chairman Ed Herlihy.

Wyden said he plans to introduce separate legislation revoking the Saudi PIF’s special tax exemption, which applies to “certain types of investment income by foreign governments and sovereign wealth funds.” That could impact the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, which Wyden said has an estimated value of more than $600 billion.

In the letter, Wyden requested more information about the financial structure of the combination and the extent of investment by Saudi-owned entities. That includes a “detailed description” of the role of the entity’s new chairman, Yasir Al Rumayyan, who is currently governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Wyden also asked for detailed information about the location of PGA-tour-owned real estate to examine possible national security considerations.

The senator said he has “serious concerns” about deals proposed as part of any tie-up that could “benefit the already lavishly-compensated officers and employees of the PGA Tour.” He noted that 19 officers and staff already make more than $1 million a year, including Monahan whose annual compensation has reached $14 million.

“It is difficult to rationalize how any further increases in compensation to Tour executives would be in the best interest of the PGA Tour or further the Tour’s tax-exempt status,” Wyden wrote.

Representatives of the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.


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