LIV’s Saudi backers lose immunity ruling in PGA dispute

LIV Golf’s major financial backers, the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, must produce documents and provide depositions in its antitrust dispute with the PGA Tour, a US judge has ruled.

US District Court judge Susan van Keulen in San Jose, California, ruled late Thursday in favor of the PGA in a discovery dispute after fund governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan said he and the fund were covered by “sovereign immunity” and need not comply with a PGA lawyer subpoena.

The ruling found the fund falls within a commercial activity exception to immunity laws, which could lead to revelations about business dealings by the fund in testimony and documents.

“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,” the order said.

A trial on the matter would not take place before next January.

Al-Rumayyan is the chairman of English Premier League side Newcastle United, which is owned by the fund.

The lawsuits stem from last year’s start of LIV Golf, which lured away several top stars from the PGA Tour with record purses for shorter events.

The PGA Tour suspended players who competed in LIV events, sparking an antitrust lawsuit, LIV contending the PGA uses monopoly power to limit player opportunities. The PGA has countersued and sought more financial information about LIV Golf.

LIV Golf is set to open its second season next week in Mexico with 48 players competing in 14 events in 2023. Eight of them are in the United States, with $20 million purses for individual competition and an additional $5 million on offer for team finishes.

Among LIV Golf’s big-name players are reigning British Open champion Cam Smith of Australia and Americans Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka and Bryan DeChambeau.

The PGA Tour responded to losing players to LIV Golf by creating “elevated” tournaments with $20 million in prize money that top players commit to contesting.

Agence France-Presse

Lee wins LIV Tucson event

New Zealand’s Danny Lee ended his eight-year title drought with victory in a playoff to win LIV Golf’s Tucson event on Sunday.