The PGA Tour and Strategic Sports Group, a collection of U.S. sports team owners, have reached a deal in which SSG will invest up to $3 billion into the PGA Tour’s new for-profit entity, PGA Tour Enterprises, the PGA Tour announced on Wednesday. Through this investment, nearly 200 PGA Tour players will receive equity in PGA Tour Enterprises with ownership share based on career accomplishments, achievements and future participation as a PGA Tour member. Non-qualified PGA Tour players will not receive equity.
SSG will initially invest $1.5 billion in PGA Tour Enterprises with the second half of the payment triggered down the road. This transaction also leaves room for the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund to enter the fold, which SSG has consented to, but only once regulation requirements are approved.
The PGA Tour also confirmed it is continuing to negotiate with the Saudi PIF on a future investment and merger agreement. The PGA Tour’s strategic alliance partner, the DP World Tour, remains in the conversation and an area of focus.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan will serve as the chief executive officer of PGA Tour Enterprises. This entity will have a 13-person board made up of seven PGA Tour players (six of the current player directors), four SSG members (John Henry, Andy Cohen, Sam Kennedy and Arthur Blank), the PGA Tour commissioner (Monahan) and one additional director from the PGA Tour policy board, according to Golf’s Sean Zak.
“Today marks an important moment for the PGA Tour and fans of golf across the world,” Monahan said in a statement. “By making PGA Tour members owners of their league, we strengthen the collective investment of our players in the success of the PGA Tour. Fans win when we all work to deliver the best in sports entertainment and return the focus to the incredible — and unmatched — competitive atmosphere created by our players, tournaments and partners. And partnering with SSG — a group with extensive experience and investment across sports, media and entertainment — will enhance our organization’s ability to make the sport more rewarding for players, tournaments, fans and partners.”
Amid this new deal, what stands out is the lack of investment thus far from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. The PIF was the presumed first investor in the framework deal between itself and the PGA Tour, and a clause in the original framework agreement signed last June stated that it had first right of refusal on any other capital that was brought into the deal. Negotiations will continue between the Tour and the Saudi PIF, but the order of operations here is surprising.
The path to this point has been anything but straightforward. It started several years ago when a man named Andy Gardiner pitched an idea called the Premier Golf League. The concept for the PGL was more or less what became LIV Golf, but Gardiner got boxed out by some potential investors — the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia — who eventually birthed a rival league.
LIV almost never happened. It struggled to get off the ground at the beginning of 2022. PGA Tour stars were understandably noncommittal to sign up for a golf league more or less funded by the government of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Public Investment Fund is the financial arm of the Saudi government and ultimately run by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Eventually, LIV convinced Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and then Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka to commit to play in its league. From there, it was easier to get lesser stars into the league.
The PIF invested over $750 million into LIV Golf in its first year.
The PGA Tour has battled LIV at every turn, even banning players who went to play LIV Golf from returning to the Tour. Commissioner Jay Monahan preached “legacy, not leverage,” and the brouhaha eventually began to play out in the courts with lawyers battling over what the future of professional golf would look like.
That was all going on in the background as golf began in 2023. Last year’s LIV Golf league looked fairly similar. No huge names committed, and both tours continued with business as usual with some occasional sniping at each other. The major championship organizations — Augusta National, PGA of America, USGA and R&A — mostly remained clear of the drama, continuing to allow players from both organizations to play in their major championships.
On June 6, 2023, the skirmish (sort of) ended. In a shocking turn that was brokered by Ed Herlihy and Jimmy Dunne on the PGA Tour side, the PGA Tour and PIF announced a cease fire and framework agreement in conjunction with the DP World Tour. In summary, both sides agreed to stop suing one another as they worked to figure out how the PIF could instead invest in a new PGA Tour for-profit entity.
LIV Golf signing Jon Rahm in early December and the PGA Tour openly carrying out talks with investment organizations such as SSG put a bit of doubt in everyone’s minds. But those events were filed away under “negotiation tactics.” Though they blew past a Dec. 31 deadline, it was understood that everyone was still aiming toward a future under the same roof.
Now? The Tour got what it wanted — a massive investment from a reputable organization that has good vision — but what does that mean for the PIF-PGA Tour relationship? Sources told CBS Sports it would be surprising if the PGA Tour-SSG agreement did not include some sort of clause for bringing on the PIF at some point. There is risk in doing so, but if the blockbuster Jon Rahm signing in December was any indication, there is probably more risk in not doing so.
Still, deals are only done when they’re done. And only one deal is done so far. The PGA Tour and SSG are now partners in the still-murky future of professional golf. They’re loaded up with cash, but they have a lot of problems to navigate together in the future.