PGA Tour Wins Court Ruling Against Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund
The PGA Tour Inc. has won a court ruling forcing Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund to provide evidence in an antitrust battle with LIV Golf, the rival upstart backed by the oil-rich kingdom. U.S. District Judge Susan van Keulen dismissed claims of foreign sovereign immunity made by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF), allowing the PGA to subpoena documents and communications related to LIV Golf’s recruiting and negotiating with players, its business plans, and its involvement in the new league.
In her heavily redacted 58-page decision, Judge van Keulen stated that “it is plain that PIF is not a mere investor in LIV; it is the moving force behind the founding, funding, oversight, and operation of LIV.” She also said Al-Rumayyan was “personally involved in and himself carried out many of PIF’s activities” related to establishing, funding, and operating the rival league.
The PGA Tour is seeking to vindicate the rights of American parties, claiming that LIV Golf interfered with contracts of those former league members who ultimately joined the breakaway league. The Tour also argued that LIV Golf’s alleged interference has harmed its brand and reputation.
On the other side of the scale, Judge van Keulen stated that the information sought by the subpoenas has not been shown to involve matters of national security or other information the disclosure of which would adversely affect Saudi Arabia.
The court ruling comes a year after the dispute began when Phil Mickelson and 10 other golfers sued the PGA Tour. Golfers who are part of LIV have both joined and departed from the lawsuit, and LIV itself is now a party to the case. The PGA Tour has responded with a counterclaim that LIV Golf interfered with the circuit’s existing contracts with players and ultimately sought a subpoena of PIF and Al-Rumayyan.
This ruling is a major victory for the PGA Tour in its ongoing battle with LIV Golf. It allows them access to the evidence behind the formation of the rival league, its business dealings and negotiations with its players. This information could be instrumental in determining whether either—or possibly both—has run afoul of the law in trying to one-up the other.
0. “Saudi Fund Boss Ordered to Testify in PGA-LIV Golf Suit” Yahoo! Voices, 17 Feb. 2023, https://www.yahoo.com/now/saudi-fund-ordered-evidence-pga-064408176.html
1. “Federal judge clears way for PGA Tour to depose Saudi financial backers in antitrust case with LIV Golf” CBS Sports, 17 Feb. 2023, https://www.cbssports.com/golf/news/federal-judge-clears-way-for-pga-tour-to-depose-saudi-financial-backers-in-antitrust-case-with-liv-golf/
2. “Judge Upholds PGA Tour's Subpoenas for PIF, Al-Rumayyan” Front Office Sports, 17 Feb. 2023, https://frontofficesports.com/judge-upholds-pga-tours-subpoenas-for-pif-al-rumayyan/
3. “PGA Tour has small win against LIV Golf as federal judge rules it can depose Saudi Arabia's PIF” Daily Mail, 17 Feb. 2023, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/golf/article-11764173/PGA-Tour-small-win-against-LIV-Golf-federal-judge-rules-depose-Saudi-Arabias-PIF.html
4. “Judge dismisses Saudi Arabia's claim of sovereign immunity for PIF” Golf Channel, 17 Feb. 2023, https://www.golfchannel.com/news/judge-dismisses-saudi-arabias-claim-sovereign-immunity-pif
5. “PGA Tour-LIV Golf Ruling Boosts Odds of a Settlement” Yahoo Sports, 21 Feb. 2023, https://sports.yahoo.com/pga-tour-liv-golf-ruling-050100081.html