In a shocking and historic move, the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund have agreed to a merger that will see the PIF's golf-related business (LIV Golf) combine with the other tours in what is being described as "a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity to ensure that all stakeholders benefit from a model that delivers maximum excitement and competition among the game's best players."
A Board of Directors will be appointed to manage the commercial golf business with the PGA Tour appointing a majority of the members and holding a majority voting interest. The new, unnamed business "will work to ensure a cohesive schedule of events that will be exciting for fans, sponsors and all stakeholders," according to the press release announcing the deal.
Other than the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV Golf holding investments in the entity, the PIF will make a new, exclusive investment and retain exclusive rights to make further investments, including the opportunity to refuse any capital that may be invested.
The PIF, Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, is believed to be among the largest of its kind globally with minority stakes in numerous major American and international businesses. In recent years, the PIF has entered a multi-million dollar deal with WWE, acquired Newcastle United FC and created LIV Golf under accusations of "sportswashing" -- using sports as propaganda to improve one's reputation and direct attention away from human rights and corruption scandals.
As for the specifics in terms of how this stunning development will play out across all three tours, it's too early to say.
The group claims the move is being made "to unify the game of golf, on a global basis" with a plan "to grow these combined commercial businesses, drive greater fan engagement and accelerate growth initiatives already underway." Furthermore, the tours "will work together to best feature and grow team golf going forward."
What is known is that the merger formally ends what was ongoing litigation between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf. It will also create a path for golfers to reapply for membership to the PGA Tour after the conclusion of the 2023 season.
Furthermore, it appears the tours will continue to run independently with respective administrative oversight. The PGA Tour will remain a 501(c)(6) tax exempt organization with Jay Monahan as its commissioner, though PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan will join the Tour's policy board.
LIV Golf, completely financed by the PIF, debuted in 2022 as a direct rival to the PGA Tour. It spent significant guaranteed money to acquire some of the game's best and most notable players, including Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Cameron Smith and Joaquin Niemann. The PGA Tour revoked those players' ability to play in its league as consternation between the tours continued into LIV's second season. The PGA Tour subsequently reworked its schedule and payment structure to ensure its star players earned more than ever before with designated events featuring $20 million purses as a tentpole.
"After two years of disruption and distraction, this is a historic day for the game we all know and love," Monahan said in a statement. "This transformational partnership recognizes the immeasurable strength of the PGA Tour's history, legacy and pro-competitive model and combines with it the DP World Tour and LIV -- including the team golf concept -- to create an organization that will benefit golf's players, commercial and charitable partners and fans.
"Going forward, fans can be confident that we will, collectively, deliver on the promise we've always made -- to promote competition of the best in professional golf and that we are committed to securing and driving the game's future.
"We are pleased to move forward, in step with LIV and PIF's world-class investing experience, and I applaud PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan for his vision and collaborative and forward-thinking approach that is not just a solution to the rift in our game, but also a commitment to taking it to new heights. This will engender a new era in global golf, for the better."
The merger is expected to be finalized in the coming months. A meeting with PGA Tour players will be held Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.