PGA Tour and LIV Golf merger: Justice Division investigating

The PGA TOUR logo is seen during the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines South on January 29, 2021 in San Diego, California.

Ben Jared | PGA Tour | Getty Images

The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division has told the PGA Tour that it will be reviewing the organization’s proposed merger with Saudi Arabia-funded LIV Golf, a source told NBC News on Thursday.

The Justice Department and LIV Golf declined to comment.

In a statement to CNBC, the PGA Tour said, “We’re confident that as everyone involved learns more about how the PGA TOUR will lead this new venture, they will understand how it will benefit our players, fans and the sport and.” while protecting the American institution.” of golf.”

A source with knowledge of the situation says any interest from the DOJ would be an extension of the existing investigation and it would not be uncommon for US antitrust authorities to review a transaction of this profile. They also say a review does not indicate the transaction violated antitrust laws.

The DOJ was already conducting an investigation into professional golf in light of the litigation with LIV.

The deal’s announcement last week immediately raised antitrust concerns.

This week, Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Ron Wyden of Oregon asked the DOJ to open an investigation into the agreement. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., also opened an investigation into the deal. Wyden launched his own investigation Thursday.

The PGA Tour’s once-controversial relationship with LIV was already being investigated by federal prosecutors, who began investigating last year whether the PGA Tour had engaged in anti-competitive conduct.

LIV, which is backed by the so-called Public Investment Fund controlled by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, divided the professional golf world when it stepped up to rival the PGA Tour.

The budding league’s ties to the kingdom, with its poor human rights record, sparked heated controversy. But with the help of a reported $2 billion investment from the Crown Prince’s fund, LIV has raked in huge prizes and perks, and attracted top-class golfers to its tournaments.

Former President Donald Trump hosted an LIV tournament at his golf club in New Jersey last summer, sparking outrage from the kingdom’s critics – including families and survivors of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The PGA Tour and LIV Golf had been at loggerheads in and out of court, and PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has openly criticized the competing league, making the announcement of their proposed merger all the more surprising. Last week’s announcement noted that the merger would result in a mutual end to all pending litigation.

If the merger goes through, the two companies will combine their businesses and rights into a new for-profit company. The PGA Tour policy board must approve the agreement, Monahan told players in a memo.

The PGA Tour announced Tuesday that Monahan is currently recovering from an unspecified medical condition and is on leave.

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