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HomeWorldSenate Subcommittee Demands Transparency in Saudi-Backed PGA Tour Merger Deal

Senate Subcommittee Demands Transparency in Saudi-Backed PGA Tour Merger Deal

Washington | September 14, 2023 : In a second hearing on the PGA Tour-LIV Golf merger, the Senate subcommittee on homeland security, with bipartisan support, called for transparency regarding Saudi Arabia’s involvement in American professional golf. The subcommittee’s chairman, Senator Richard Blumenthal, expressed concerns about the lack of oversight and the growing web of Saudi investments in the United States.

Blumenthal announced the issuance of a subpoena to USSA International LLC, the U.S. subsidiary of the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), to obtain documents related to the merger and other U.S. investments. Witnesses at the hearing accused Saudi Arabia of using investment platforms to exert soft power and shape U.S. public opinion.

Benjamin Freeman, director of the Democratizing Foreign Policy Program at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, characterized the PGA-LIV deal as an influence operation rather than a business deal, intended to shape U.S. foreign policy. Experts testified that the PIF lacks transparency and credible governance structures.

The Saudi government’s investments in various sectors in the U.S. have surged, with holdings growing from $2.5 billion in 2018 to over $35 billion today. This includes significant investments in entertainment, electronic vehicles, gaming, and sports.

Notably, PIF has lured top soccer players to Saudi Arabia with substantial offers, including Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Karim Benzema. Despite their attempts, they failed to secure Lionel Messi, who chose Major League Soccer in the U.S.

Senator Blumenthal emphasized that foreign government commercial holdings must be subject to U.S. law and oversight if they wish to engage commercially with the United States.

The PGA Tour and LIV announced their merger deal in June, drawing criticism for potential “sportswashing,” where sports are used to divert attention from human rights violations. The deal, which aims to create a for-profit subsidiary to manage competitions, also resolved pending litigation between the two organizations.

While the PGA Tour claims to be in control of the merger, PIF has expressed its willingness to invest billions in the new entity. The merger followed a series of antitrust claims between the PGA Tour and LIV, illustrating the complexity of this high-stakes deal.

As bipartisan concerns continue to mount, the subcommittee’s demand for transparency underscores the need to scrutinize foreign investments that could impact U.S. sports and influence.

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