PGA Tour and LIV Golf merger reviewed by Senator Richard Blumenthal

PGA Tour logo during the third round of the Travelers Championship on June 24, 2017 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.

Fred Kfoury | Icon Sportswire | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — A top Democratic lawmaker on Monday opened an investigation into the proposed merger of the PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., in letters to PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan and Greg Norman, CEO of LIV Golf, inquired about details of the agreement between the two organizations, including how the new combined company will operate in light of the human rights violations in Saudi Arabia.

Blumenthal’s letter comes at a time when the PGA Tour-LIV deal is subject to intense scrutiny and doubts over whether the merger can be completed given the severity of previous claims in previous litigation between the golf leagues against each other.

The Saudi government faces widespread human rights abuses, including orchestrating the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

9/11 Families United, a group representing the families of victims of the terrorist attack, also criticized the merger because of Saudi Arabia’s involvement. Blumenthal has previously sided with victims’ families when another organization, the 9/11 Justice Group, protested an LIV event at a golf course owned by former President Donald Trump.

The June 6 merger announcement was a “sudden and drastic about-face in relation to LIV Golf,” wrote Blumenthal, chair of the Senate Standing Subcommittee on Investigations. The Tour and its commissioner had previously spoken out strongly against LIV and its role in professional golf.

Meanwhile, the Saudi government’s Private Investment Fund, which owns LIV, has expressed clear plans to use investments in the sport to advance the Saudi government’s goals, Blumenthal’s letter said.

“The PGA Tour’s agreement with PIF regarding LIV Golf raises concerns about the Saudi government’s role in influencing these efforts and the risks posed by a foreign government entity taking control of a cherished American institution,” Blumenthal wrote.

Prior to the merger agreement, PGA’s rivalry with LIV involved legal action between the two. The companies have agreed to discontinue all pending litigation as part of their plan to consolidate commercial businesses and rights into an unnamed for-profit entity.

Monahan told CNBC’s Squawk on the Street on Tuesday that the merger is beneficial for golf, despite past “tensions.”

According to a memo to players in Monahan, the agreement is subject to approval by the PGA Tour Policy Board.

“We are confident that as Congress learns more about how the PGA Tour will control this new entity, it will understand the opportunities it presents for our players, our communities and our sport, while promoting an American golf institution,” the tour told CNBC in a statement later Monday.

LIV Golf declined to comment on Blumenthal’s letters.

Blumenthal requested responses to several requests by June 26, including an overview of the company’s structure and records of any disputes between company directors and other stakeholders.

– CNBC’s Jessica Golden contributed to this report.

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