The Golf Crack: Who’s in the Saudi League, the Investors, the Millions at Stake and the Role of Donald Trump

The Golf Crack: Who’s in the Saudi League, the Investors, the Millions at Stake and the Role of Donald Trump

Augusta, Georgia. – LIV Golf has divided men’s professional golf like no other since the 1960’s. The new league, owned and funded largely by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, has caused a crisis on the PGA Tour, which has struggled to reinvent its economic model as some of its biggest stars switch. But the LIV itself has also been the target of fierce criticism, massive suspicion, and bitter litigation. Although much of the department’s operations remain unclear — many documents that would reveal details are subject to judicial secrecy — some information about its structure and operations has emerged in legal files, interviews, business records and internal documents reviewed by The New York Times.

Some of the best players in the world, eg Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, became faces Leaf golf. But the project was made possible by a network of investors, intermediaries, political allies and sponsors from around the world, including the former US president and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

Donald Trump with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin SalmanFrance Press agency

Saudi Public Investment Fundone of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, and has been instrumental in The plan of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman To diversify the Kingdom’s economy and make it a more important global player. Sports investments, including LIV and Premier League team Newcastle United, are important to the strategy, but the wealth fund also has large holdings in companies such as SoftBank and Uber.

Lawyers for the wealth fund described him as merely an investor in LIV, but in a February ruling, a US judge said she believed the fund was “the driving force behind the founding, financing, oversight, and operation of LIV.” The PGA Tour has confirmed in court that the wealth fund actually owns 93% of the golf league and, like other LIV detractors, confirms this. The Wealth Fund uses this sport to divert attention from Saudi Arabia’s record of human rights abuses.

Charles Schwartzl (with trophy) and Greg Norman at the first LIV Championship; In the center is Yasser Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Public Investment Fund, one of the key men in the new project Craig Mercer – MP Media/Getty Images

The wealth fund seems to be more closely related to LIV through Yasser Al-Rumayyan A golf fan, he is the governor of the Public Investment Fund and also serves as the chairman of Aramco, the Saudi state oil company that has been a major sponsor of the Formula 1 race. Majid Al-Sorour, a member of LIV’s Board of Directors, was considered central to LIV’s operations before his profile was recently lowered for undisclosed reasons. The Wealth Fund and the LIV also enlisted the help of Western powers in designing and managing the league, such as McKinsey & Company, PwC, the law firms of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, White & Case.

Before the Saudis launched the league, McKinsey advisors told the wealth fund that such a venture was a “high-risk, high-return venture”. That it could generate at least $1.4 billion in revenue annually by the end of the decade, or lose hundreds of millions of dollars.

Since its inception last year, the seamless 54-hole course has offered fans an intense, less starchy product than the PGA Tour and its contemporaries. But the league has suffered from staff turnover: The chief operating officer, who was seen as vital for LIV to achieve its business ambitions, is one of many executives to leave in recent months. And it was difficult for him to make his way, especially in the United StatesMen’s professional golf has long been dominated by the PGA Tour.

Performance 54, a British golf marketing agency run by Gary Davidson and a handful of people who have been involved with LIV since its inception, has recently taken on an important role in the league, due to the turnover of its executives. Court records show that he has a minority stake in LIV.

LIV blamed the tour for their troubles. In a February lawsuit, it complained that the department’s “anti-competitive conduct” had “harmed LIV’s brand, increased its costs by hundreds of millions of dollars, and reduced its revenues to nearly zero.” And while LIV recently boasted a TV deal with the CW network, You don’t acquire the kind of rights that usually float around in professional sports leagues. LIV’s lawyers said in a recent lawsuit that the Tour’s campaign against the league had turned it into a “secondary network.”

Former President Donald J. Trump is a public entertainer at LIV, who played two tournaments on his company’s courts last year and plans to compete in three this year. In an interview with The Times in October, Trump said he had no qualms about hosting the arena, despite Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

The law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher has been instrumental in LIV’s legal case, which won’t go to trial until at least next year. LIV also enlisted the help of powerful figures in Republican politics. Ari FleischerA White House spokesperson under President George W. Bush moderated a heated press conference about LIV and advised the university on its communications strategy. Benjamin Coylea former congressman and son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, signed up as a lobbyist for LIV.

Many LIV players are unknown. But the league’s 48-man roster still stands Men who are or have been some of the biggest names from golf. Cameron Smith No. 6 in the Official World Golf Ranking, he won last year’s British Open. Six Lev players – Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Charles Schwartzl and Bubba Watson- They have won the Masters, and others have starred in Ryder Cups, PGA Championships and US Opens.

Tallor Gotch, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, and Harold Varner III on the 11th hole at Augusta National: Four “Rebels” from the LIV Golf Series TogetherAndrew Reddington – Getty Images North America

Some players have contracts that guarantee them at least $100 million eachand LIV agreed to pay $405 million in prize money across 14 events this season. Last year, Johnson won at least $35 million in the LIV Awards; He had posted about $75 million in comparable earnings over 15 seasons on the PGA Tour.

Former President Donald J. Trump He was LIV’s Artist of the Year, who played two tournaments in his company’s fields last year and plans to compete in three this year. In an interview with The Times in October, Trump said he had no qualms about hosting the arena, despite Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

Trump, who as head challenged US intelligence agencies that concluded the crown prince authorized the assassination of a Washington Post columnist, said he believed Saudi Arabia’s interest in golf was “very important to them” and that they were “putting in a lot of effort and a lot of money”.

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, during Ivana Trump’s funeral, in July 2022Julia Nikhinson – AP

But neither the former president nor the company that bears his last name has disclosed how much they earn from LIV events. Eric Trump, the son of the former president and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, said earlier this year that the company was “honored” to host LIV.

The endowment fund has other relationships with the former president’s orbit. 2 billion dollars invested in a controlling company Jared Kushner Son-in-law of Donald J Trump. He was also the “host partner” for a women’s golf series that traveled to Trump Course in the Bronx for an event last October.

Alan Blinder, Kevin Draper, and Gilbert Gates

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