The shocking merger between the PGA Tour and Saudi-backed rival LIV Golf may need a mulligan.
Tuesday’s announcement that the rival tours will form a new, for-profit entity has sparked antitrust concerns from US and European regulators, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.
The Department of Justice, which was already investigating the PGA Tour’s legal battle with LIV, will reviewing the proposed deal rather than the FTC, which usually handles sports leagues, sources told the outlet.
The deal combines the PGA Tour, LIV Golf and the Europe-based DP World Tour into an as-yet unnamed commercial venture.
It is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.
Antitrust experts told Bloomberg the final details will be key to the DOJ’s investigation, which is concerned the new entity will create a monopoly.
The shotgun marriage between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf has raised the eyebrows of US and European antitrust regulators as the union creates a monopoly with virtually zero competitors.Getty Images
The leagues don’t expect the so-called “joint venture” to require a traditional merger review, another source told Bloomberg.
Antitrust lawyers were not involved in the discussions about the proposed deal, the outlet added.
Some antitrust experts, however, raised a red flag.
“The PGA-LIV merger is another in a long line of successful efforts by entrenched monopoly organizers of sporting competitions to maintain their dominance through predatory behavior directed toward rivals, followed by swallowing them up,” Stephen Ross, a professor at Penn State Law, told Bloomberg.
Ross also likened the PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan to “John D. Rockefeller, putting independent gas stations out of business and then folding them into Standard Oil.”
Monahan — who brokered the deal with the governor of the Saudi wealth fund — dismissed antitrust concerns when he announced the surprise shotgun marriage.
“Every single player in men’s professional golf is going to have more opportunity and more growth. We are going to grow our industry,” Monahan said on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”
One Senate Republican leader told Reuters that the joint venture is “not a governmental concern” when asked if there should be congressional oversight of the merger.
The PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has dismissed that there are any antitrust issues regarding the PGA-LIV merger.AP
The rival leagues had been engaged in a high-profile legal fight for two years, with LIV alleging America’s premiere pro-golfer organization operated as a monopoly that blocked its athletes from participating in other tours — in violation of the US antitrust law.
That litigation will now be dropped, though it creates an ever bigger monopoly than the one LIV claimed the PGA had, thus piquing the interest of US and European antitrust enforcers.
Monahan called the litigation “two years of disruption and distraction.”
The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) — which fully funded LIV and is the new entity’s sole investor — is taking a roughly 20% stake in the union and could be dishing out as much as $2 billion, a source told The Post.
PGA players and critics of the LIV Tour have accused the Saudis of splashing huge sums of money to lure some of the world’s best golfers as a form of “sportswashing” to counter the Kingdom’s history of human rights abuses.
Rory McIlroy, one of the loudest pro-PGA voices throughout its civil war with LIV, teed off on the PGA’s capitulation.
“It is hard for me not to feel like a sacrificial lamb. I put myself out there,” McIlroy said Wednesday during the RBC Canadian Open in Toronto.
Pro golfer Rory McIlroy has been one of the loudest pro-PGA voices throughout its civil war with LIV.Getty Images
Meanwhile, Bryson DeChambeau — who signed a four-and-a-half year deal with LIV in 2022 after they offered him a reported $125 million — seemed to support the union as he called for forgiveness from the families and victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
PIF, the Saudi-backed fund that fully financed LIV and will be the new entity’s singular investor, reportedly also financed some of the 19 Saudi Arabian terrorists involved in 9/11.
“I think we’ll never be able to repay the families back for what exactly happened just over 20 years ago,” DeChambeau told CNN’s Kaitlin Collins in an effort to stifle the fallout from the bombshell announcement.
LIV Golf had previously filed a lawsuit against the Tour alleging it operated as a monopoly that blocked its athletes from participating in other tours. The merger voids the litigation.AP
“And what happened is definitely horrible. I think as time has gone, 20 years have passed and we’re in a place where it’s time to start trying to work together to make things better together as a whole,” he added.
Brooks Koepka — who also jumped to LIV and won last month’s PGA Tournament — and his model wife Jena Sims were also pleased.
“It’s a good day to have a good day,” Sims wrote on her Instagram Stories alongside a Golf.com report of the merger.