The Capitol chambers are reserved and the senators’ calendars are empty. But less than two weeks after a Senate subcommittee calls for public hearings on its business plans with the PGA Tour and Saudi sovereign wealth funds, the committee’s ambitions for high-profile witnesses face significant resistance. .
Wealth fund president Yasir Al-Rumayyan is unlikely to voluntarily appear before parliament on or after July 11. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monaghan is on sick leave. And LIV Golf, the Saudi-funded league, has Greg Norman, a two-time British Open champion in decades before becoming the circuit’s commissioner and lightning rod, speak to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee of Inquiry. I hesitate to do that.
Witness disputes suggest the investigation could be disrupted just weeks after the panel’s scrutiny of the deal began. Lawmakers are particularly unhappy with the LIV’s proposal to send acting chief operating officer Gary Davidson to the hearings instead of Norman.
“We have requested Mr. Greg Norman to testify, but unless there is a reasonable explanation for his absence (which has not yet been explained), Mr. Greg Norman will attend,” said Richard. Senator Blumenthal’s public relations director Maria McElwain said. The Connecticut Democratic Rep., who chairs the subcommittee, said in a statement:
The LIV declined to comment on Friday, but a person familiar with the circuit’s thinking requested anonymity about informal talks with Congress, with the league saying Davidson is more immersed in day-to-day operations and the potential implications of the deal. Said he was thinking. Since its announcement on June 6, it has shook the golf world. Norman and Davidson were not involved in the secret negotiations that led to the deal.
Under the structure assumed in Five-page framework agreement Privately signed on May 30, the business operations of the European Tour, known as the PGA Tour, LIV and DP World Tour, including television rights and sponsorships, will be taken over by a new for-profit company. The plan calls for the PGA Tour to control a majority of the seats on the board, make Monaghan the company’s chief executive officer, and retain control over many professional golf tournaments.
But the Saudi wealth fund has broad investment rights and Al Rumayyan will become chairman of the company, giving the Saudis a lot of leverage in men’s professional golf if the deal goes through.
The planned venture, just as it did before the tour considered a deal with the wealth fund, has drawn contempt and skepticism from Washington for weeks as lawmakers rage over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. there is Some lawmakers have threatened to strip the tour of its tax-exempt status, and Justice Department antitrust regulators could spend months scrutinizing the deal before deciding whether to block it.
And given Congress’ pastime of publicly taunting sports executives on issues such as steroids and college athlete rights, the most important details, such as asset valuations, may not have been revealed. Nevertheless, the Senate immediately scheduled a public hearing to scrutinize the agreement. It will take months to resolve.
But Blumenthal and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, a senior Republican on the subcommittee, wrote in a letter last week that Norman, Monaghan and Al Rumayyan were present to discuss the “status and conditions of the deal.” Invited to prepare to discuss The same goes for the “expected role” of wealth funds in professional golf in the United States.
Senators have not subpoenaed senior officials, but they hoped to finalize the witness list by the middle of this week, but on Friday the committee was still negotiating with Tour, the Wealth Fund and the LIV.
A hearing would be the most important opportunity yet for golf owners to allay concerns about the proposed deal. But like any appearance before Congress, the process carries risks. Any misstep could intensify a storm of public outrage, or, perhaps more troublingly for supporters of the deal, could prompt government officials to scrutinize it more rigorously. (For example, antitrust experts say the June 6 Monaghan deal would increase Justice Department scrutiny by claiming it would “remove competitors from the board.”) predicting.)
Norman, in particular, has a history of being criticized. Last year, for example, he downplayed Saudi responsibility for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, saying, “Look, we’re all making mistakes.” He has made relatively few public statements in recent months, and he and his representatives have declined interview requests from The New York Times.
However, when Mr. Blumenthal and Mr. Johnson wrote to Mr. Johnson on June 21, the subcommittee “respectfully requests that he appear in person to testify.” LIV officials said Norman was traveling abroad at the time, and PGA Tour officials were privately opposed to a congressional inquiry into the commissioner without similar oversight, possibly leading to Monahan’s medical leave. It seems to have taken into account
Monahan’s indefinite absence has complicated the tour’s statements at the hearing. The two executives named to lead the tour on an interim basis, Tyler Dennis and Ron Price, were not involved in contract negotiations.
But Al Rumayyan was. But the possibility of him appearing in the Houses of Parliament was never considered. One of Saudi Arabia’s most influential figures, he rarely gives interviews outside of a tightly controlled environment, and lawyers representing him and the Saudi government have called for him to step down in a golf-related lawsuit in the United States. An aggressive battle was waged to stop it. (The case was dropped as part of the interim agreement, one of the few binding elements of the Agreed Framework, and Al-Rumayyan did not testify under oath.)
The Wealth Fund declined to comment on Friday. In a statement, the Tour said it was “cooperating with the subcommittee’s request for information and engaging in productive discussions with the subcommittee regarding the PGA TOUR representatives on July 11.”
He added, “We look forward to answering their questions regarding framework agreements that will continue to keep the PGA Tour the future leader in professional golf and benefit players, fans and the sport.”
Wealth funds and tours have sent an army of lobbyists, lawyers and political fixers to try to smooth the trajectory of the deal. Monahan wrote to lawmakers defending the deal before going on leave to recover from a “medical condition” that Tour refused to explain. He also complained that Congress had not given the tour enough support to withstand what he said was Saudi Arabia’s “attempt to take over the game of golf in the United States.”
“Ostensibly, the complex geopolitical alliance between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia left us largely on our own to fend off an attack,” Monahan said. I have written.
It is not clear whether the Senate committee will step up its efforts to secure the testimony of Norman, or any other witnesses they have requested, especially before the July 11 hearings. Most lawmakers are out of Washington for the Senate Independence Day holiday, and few are expected to return to the Capitol until the week of the hearings.
But the current timing of the hearing may be a coincidence for golf coaches. All eyes will be on the British Open at Royal Liverpool next week. Cameron Smith, who joined LIV shortly after winning the Old Course at St Andrews last July, will be looking to defend his title in golf’s final major tournament of the year.