Sat. Feb 24th, 2024

The PGA Tour is about to get a massive influx of money.

Almost eight months after the proposed framework agreement between the Tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund was announced at the Canadian Open, the Tour has finalized a $3 billion deal with Strategic Sports Group (SSG), a collection of investors who own some of the most historic franchises in North American pro sports and the English Premier League. Negotiations with the PIF remain ongoing.

But who is SSG, a group that seems to have come together specifically for this investment, the largest ever in pro golf?

SSG’s investors have more than 200 years of sports ownership experience combined across several leagues, including MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL and EPL. They will make an initial investment of $1.5 billion into PGA Tour Enterprises, a new company under the PGA Tour’s control.

PGA Tour players will collectively have access to $1.5 billion in equity shares of the new company. The amount for individual players will be determined by career accomplishments, recent success and tour membership status, and will vest over time.

“By making PGA Tour members owners of their league, we strengthen the collective investment of our players in the success of the PGA Tour,” said PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.

The PGA Tour announced last month it had chosen to move forward in negotiations with SSG, after considering pitches from other hedge funds and investment capital firms. Let’s dig into some of the investors who make up SSG.

John Henry

John Henry is the principal of Fenway Sports Group, a conglomerate that owns the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool FC, the Pittsburgh Penguins, NASCAR’s RFK Racing and the TGL’s Boston Common Golf. He is also the manager of SSG.

Henry began his career in finance through commodities trading, before managing several successful investment funds. His first involvement in sports ownership was purchasing the minor-league baseball franchise Tucson Turos of the Pacific Coast League in 1989. Henry became the sole owner of the then-Florida Marlins in 1999, purchasing the team for approximately $158 million.

After selling the Marlins in January 2002, Henry joined forces with businessman Tom Werner to purchase the Boston Red Sox. They started New England Sports Ventures, which became the Fenway Sports Group in 2011. Fenway Sports Group bought Liverpool on Oct. 6, 2010, and took over as majority owners of the Penguins on Dec. 31, 2021.

During Henry’s ownership tenure, the Red Sox have won four World Series and Liverpool won the English Premier League title in 2020.

The Fenway Sports Group has several high-profile investors, including NBA superstar LeBron James and his business manager Maverick Carter.

Werner, now the chairman of Fenway Sports Group, is a part of SSG.

Mark Attanasio

Mark Attanasio is the owner of the Milwaukee Brewers. He purchased the Brewers from the family of former MLB commissioner Bud Selig in 2005, a deal worth approximately $223 million. According to Forbes, the Brewers have a valuation of $1.605 billion as of March 2023.

Attanasio is also a co-majority shareholder in Norwich City FC, which plays in England’s second tier. He is the co-founder and senior executive of Crescent Capital Group, an investment firm with an excess of $40 billion in assets under management, according to the company page.

During Attanasio’s tenure with the Brewers, the team has made the postseason seven times.

Arthur Blank

Arthur Blank is the owner and chairman of AMB Sports and Entertainment. In 2002, Blank purchased the Falcons for approximately $545 million. The Falcons are worth $4.5 billion as of September 2023, according to Forbes. The team has reached the playoffs eight times, including a Super Bowl appearance during the 2016 season.

In 2014, Blank acquired the MLS franchise Atlanta United FC. The organization became an official MLS team in 2017 and in its second season won the MLS Cup.

Prior to owning the Falcons, Blank co-founded The Home Depot in 1978. Headquartered in Atlanta, Home Depot became one of the largest home improvement stores worldwide. Blank retired as co-chairman in 2001.

Steve Cohen

Steve Cohen is the owner, chairman and CEO of the New York Mets. He is also the chairman and CEO of Point72, one of the leading hedge funds worldwide that is worth $30.6 billion, according to Forbes.

Cohen was a minority owner of the Mets in 2012. On Oct. 30, 2020, Cohen acquired the Mets from the Wilson family for $2.475 billion, becoming the majority owner.

In 1992, Cohen started his hedge fund, S.A.C. Capital Advisors. It ascended to becoming one of the most successful hedge funds worldwide, managing $14 billion, per Reuters. The firm closed after Cohen pleaded guilty for insider trading, resulting in him paying a record fine of $1.8 billion, according to Forbes.

Cohen also owns the New York franchise in the TGL, the upcoming new golf league led by Woods and Rory McIlroy.

Andrew Cohen, the vice chairman of the Mets, is also a part of SSG.

Wyc Grousbeck

Wyc Grousbeck is the lead owner of the Boston Celtics. Grousbeck led the investors (Boston Basketball Partners LLC) who purchased the Celtics in 2002 for a reported $360 million. The Celtics are worth $4.7 billion as of October 2023, per Forbes.

During Grousbeck’s ownership tenure, the Celtics won the franchise’s 17th NBA championship in 2008. Boston reached the NBA Finals in 2009 and 2022.

Before owning the Celtics, Grousbeck founded Highland Capital Partners, a venture capital firm specializing in technology and life sciences companies based in Boston.

Marc Lasry

Marc Lasry was the co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks from 2014 to 2023. He became co-owner of the Bucks after he and American businessman Wes Edens purchased the team from Herb Kohl for $550 million.

During Lasry’s ownership tenure, the Bucks won the NBA championship in 2021. Lasry sold 25 percent of his ownership stake to Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam on Apr. 14, 2023. Sources briefed on the discussions told The Athletic the deal carried a valuation of $3.5 billion.

Lasry is the CEO of Avenue Capital Group, an international firm focused on investing in debt and equity of financially struggling firms. He also is the owner of the TGL franchise based in San Francisco.

List of Strategic Sports Group members

John Henry (principal, Fenway Sports Group)
Steven Cohen (owner, chairman & CEO, New York Mets; chairman & CEO, Point72; owner, TGL New York)
Arthur Blank (co-founder, Home Depot; owner and chairman, AMB Sports and Entertainment)
Tom Werner (chairman, Fenway Sports Group)
Mike Gordon (president, Fenway Sports Group)
Sam Kennedy (CEO and president, Boston Red Sox; partner, Fenway Sports Group)
Andrew Cohen (chief investment officer and co-founder of Cohen Private Ventures; vice chairman, New York Mets)
Mark Attanasio (principal, Milwaukee Brewers and Norwich City; founder and managing partner, Crescent Capital Group)
Wyc Grousbeck (co-founder, Causeway Media Partners; lead owner, Boston Celtics)
Marc Lasry (CEO, Avenue Capital Group; owner, TGL San Francisco; former principal, Milwaukee Bucks)
Linda Henry (co-owner and CEO, Boston Globe Media; investor, WNBA and League One Volleyball; partner, Fenway Sports Group)
Alec Scheiner (co-founder and partner, Otro Capital)

Required reading

(Photo: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

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