September 21, 2023

PGA Tour policy executive reportedly resigns over partnership with LIV Golf, Saudi Arabia

A member of the PGA Tour’s policy board resigned Saturday over “serious concerns” about the new partnership with LIV Gulf and Saudi Arabia, according to The Washington Post.

Former AT&T executive Randall Stephenson informed the policy board on Saturday of his resignation, ending a 12-year term on the board. Stephenson directly cited the deal with LIV Golf as the reason for his resignation, saying the framework agreement “is not an agreement that I can objectively judge or, in good conscience, support, especially in light of the US intelligence report on Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.”

Stephenson said he planned to step down early, but stayed after PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan suddenly stepped down from his role due to a health issue. Monahan returns next week.

“I joined this board 12 years ago to serve the best players in the world and to expand the virtues of sportsmanship instilled through the game of golf,” Stephenson wrote via The Washington Post. thoroughly rethink its governance model and keep its options open to evaluate alternative sources of capital beyond the current framework agreement.”

The PGA Tour Board of Directors consists of five directors, a representative of PGA of America and five Tour players, including Rory McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay. The board met more than five hours ahead of Michigan’s Rocket Mortgage Classic last week to discuss the sort of merger with LIV Golf and the DP World Tour. Monahan was not present.

“By entering into the framework agreement, costly litigation has come to an end. Management, with input from our player directors, has now entered a new phase of negotiations to determine whether the Tour can reach a final agreement that is in the best interest of our players, fans, sponsors, partners and the game at large. the board said in a statement after that meeting, via Sports Illustrated. “That was the focus of our productive policy board meeting this afternoon, with valuable and crucial input and perspective from the membership through our player directors.”

Randall Stephenson said he could not

Randall Stephenson said he could not “objectively assess or conscientiously support” the PGA Tour’s proposed partnership with LIV Golf. (Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Stephenson’s resignation latest backlash after PGA Tour-LIV Golf deal

Stephenson’s resignation is just the latest example of backlash Monahan has faced since announcing the new partnership, though it may be the biggest development internally.

Monahan has faced harsh criticism since announcing the deal on June 6. He held a controversial players meeting after that announcement and was reportedly called a hypocrite to his face. He has also been called out for citing the 9/11 terrorist attacks when defending the Tour over LIV Golf.

A pair of Tour executives will testify before a US Senate committee this week after it launched an investigation into the deal. The Ministry of Justice is also investigating.

The Tour sent a six-page “framework agreement” to Congress outlining its planned partnership with LIV Golf and the DP World Tour. That document didn’t reveal much, other than the fact that the deal has a long way to go before closing. However, it did make it clear that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund will be the “first corporate sponsor” of both the PGA Tour and DP World Tour. The PIF is reportedly preparing to invest billions in the new venture.

As Stephenson mentioned in his letter, much of the criticism was due to Saudi Arabia’s involvement. The country has been accused of “sportwashing” its investments in teams and leagues around the world as an attempt to cover up alleged human rights abuses and more, including involvement in Khashoggi’s death. US officials believe Khashoggi, a former Washington Post journalist, was killed in 2018 after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved it, according to The New York Times.

It is unclear whether other board members will follow Stephenson’s lead. Most have kept their mouths shut or said very little. In fact, McIlroy, who has been arguably the biggest Tour supporter in the battle between the two leagues, was careful with his words when he first addressed the deal – although he said he still hates LIV Golf and is felt like a sacrificial lamb.

“I have agreed with [the PIF]McIlroy said. “I see what’s happened in other sports, I see what’s happened in other companies, and frankly I’ve resigned myself to the fact that this is what’s going to happen.”

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