Judge rules PGA Tour can depose Saudi backers of LIV Golf

Feb 16, 2023, 7:02 PM | Updated: Feb 17, 2023, 9:03 am

FILE - LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, left, walks off the course after the final round of the LIV Golf T...

FILE - LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman, left, walks off the course after the final round of the LIV Golf Team Championship at Trump National Doral Golf Club, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022, in Doral, Fla. Saudi-funded LIV Golf has a television partner five weeks before the start of its second season, announcing Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, it has an agreement with The CW to air tournaments on the weekend and stream the first rounds on The CW's app.(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

A federal judge has ruled the head of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the financial backer of LIV Golf, must sit for depositions and produce documents in LIV Golf’s antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour.

Lawyers for the Public Investment Fund and its governor, Yasir al-Rumayyan, had sought to quash subpoenas claiming sovereign immunity.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan van Keulen ruled late Thursday that PIF’s involvement falls under the commercial activity exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act.

Her decision allows the PGA Tour to seek documents and any communication related to such matters as LIV Golf’s recruiting and negotiating with players, its business plans and its involvement in the new league.

If the ruling holds, it could pull back the curtain on the PIF’s business dealings.

The ruling, seen as a victory for the PGA Tour, comes one week before LIV Golf is set to begin its second season offering $25 million in prize money at its 13 events, with $50 million for the team championship finale.

Any trial in the lawsuit would not be until at least January 2024.

Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau were among 11 players who originally filed the antitrust lawsuit in August. LIV Golf joined the lawsuit, and eventually all but three players — DeChambeau, Matt Jones and Peter Uihlein — removed themselves as plaintiffs.

In her 58-page ruling, some of which was heavily redacted, van Keulen said PIF’s involvement was of commercial interest to Saudi Arabia.

“It is plain that PIF is not a mere investor in LIV; it is the moving force behind the founding, funding, oversight, and operation of LIV,” she wrote in her decision. “PIF’s actions are indisputably the type of actions by which a private party engages in trade and traffic or commerce.”

She also said al-Rumayyan was “personally involved in and himself carried out many of PIF’s activities” related to establishing, funding and operation of the rival league.

LIV Golf has accused the PGA Tour of using monopolistic powers to squash competition.

The Saudi-backed league has 48 players that compete individually for $20 million in prize money and through four-man teams that offer an additional $5 million purse.

With bonus money involved, Dustin Johnson made $35.6 million last year in eight tournaments. Johnson, Mickelson, DeChambeau and four-time major champion Brooks Koepka were some of the biggest names to join with signing fees reported to be in the range of $150 million.

The PGA Tour has responded to LIV’s threat by created “elevated” events that offer $20 million in prize money, such as the Genesis Invitational this week in Los Angeles. Top players, led by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, are involved in building a new model for the PGA Tour aimed at bringing the top players together more often.

The PGA Tour suspended the players for violating its membership regulations, which include requiring a release to play in overseas events. The tour does not allow players to compete in other tournaments in North America.

LIV Golf has eight events in the United States this year.

The offseason for LIV Golf included a television contract with The CW, giving its tournament a broadcast partner for U.S. markets. Previously, tournaments were available only through YouTube or live streaming.

But the league has gone through its share of shakeups from within.

Majed Al Sorour, the CEO of Golf Saudi and managing director of LIV Golf, was transitioned out of that role last month. It was one of many changes at LIV Golf during the offseason in which its chief operating officer, chief marketing officer and chief communications officer have left the circuit.

LIV Golf has announced the addition of two more players for the second season — Mito Pereira of Chile, who is No. 46 in the world ranking; and Sebastian Munoz of Colombia, who is at No. 96.


AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

Judge rules PGA Tour can depose Saudi backers of LIV Golf