Title: LIV Golf’s PGA Tour Merger Faces Uncertainty as Fenway Sports Chairman Tom Werner Reveals Talks to Challenge Saudi Backing
By Jack Bezants, Sports Correspondent
Published: 10:46 EST, 7 November 2023 | Updated: 11:15 EST, 7 November 2023
LIV Golf’s highly anticipated merger with the PGA Tour has encountered fresh doubt as Tom Werner, chairman of Fenway Sports Group (FSG), confirmed discussions with the Tour while hinting at a potential bid to rival the Saudi-backed circuit.
Werner, who also holds the chairmanship of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC, acknowledged FSG’s ongoing talks with the PGA Tour during an interview with CNBC, where he was joined by golfing superstar Rory McIlroy at Fenway Park.
Currently, only a framework agreement exists between LIV, backed by Saudi investors, and the PGA Tour. However, last week, golf reporter Alan Shipnuck claimed that the deal was on the verge of collapse and that FSG had made a significant move.
While Werner did not provide specific details, he confirmed, “We confirm that we’ve had conversations.” Shipnuck, author of the book “LIV and Let Die,” criticized the initial messaging of the merger, stating, “A huge problem from day one was the messaging of the ‘merger.’ The press release should have said ‘Lawsuits dropped, we’ll figure out the rest later.'”
Shipnuck further explained, “There’s nothing binding in the framework agreement; it’s aspirational. The Tour is committed to a new business model but not the PIF $.” He added, “Fenway Sports Group has put in a monster bid to usurp the PIF. It looks increasingly likely we go back to LIV vs. the Tour.”
While Werner, 73, refrained from divulging further information, he emphasized that “the players will decide where the tour goes.” He also expressed his admiration for McIlroy, who is set to launch his indoor competition, “The Golf League,” in January, with Werner investing in a Boston-based team.
“We’re partnering with Rory, who is a transcendent figure in golf, in an idea that I think will resonate not just with traditional golfers but also with a lot of new golfers,” Werner stated.
McIlroy, known for his outspoken criticism of LIV, openly expressed his disdain for the Saudi-backed breakaway circuit. However, upon news of the potential merger in June, he acknowledged the possibility of a positive outcome, saying, “Mixed emotions… I still hate LIV. Like, I hate LIV. I hope it goes away, and I would fully expect that it does. I look 10 years down the line, I think ultimately this is going to be good for the game of professional golf. It unifies it and secures its financial future.”
In addition to owning the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC, two iconic teams in global sports, FSG also holds ownership of the NHL team Pittsburgh Penguins.
LIV Golf Timeline:
– June 9, 2022: LIV Golf holds its inaugural event in England, leading to the PGA Tour suspending all members who participated in the rival tournament.
– August 2022: Phil Mickelson and ten other LIV Golfers file an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour, accusing it of using an unlawful monopoly to stifle trade.
– October 2022: The PGA Tour countersues the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), which funds LIV Golf, naming PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan in the lawsuit.
– January 2023: The PGA Tour files a motion alleging that the PIF interfered with its contracts by enticing players to join the upstart league.
– June 2023: LIV Golf and the PGA Tour decide to merge, bringing an end to their competing lawsuits.
As the future of LIV Golf’s merger with the PGA Tour hangs in the balance, the golfing world eagerly awaits the players’ verdict on the direction of the sport.