The Saudi-PGA M&A Legal Hellscape

Golf fans are still buzzing with disbelief after PGA commissioner Jay Monahan suddenly capitulated to the Saudis.
Golf fans are still buzzing with disbelief after PGA commissioner Jay Monahan suddenly capitulated to the Saudis. Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images
Eriq Gardner
June 12, 2023

Nearly a week has passed since the shocking announcement of some sort of merger between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, but the astonishment at this hastily arranged union has not diminished. After all, Golf fans spent a year hearing high-minded big talk about how the august American organization would never allow the sports-washing Saudis to impose their presence on the greens, even if they had all the money in the world, and presented a legit existential threat. Now, fans are still buzzing with disbelief after PGA commissioner Jay Monahan—who cajoled players into rejecting lucrative nine-figure offers from the kingdom—suddenly capitulated. The sense of betrayal extends to the lawyers, too: Privately, some attorneys who worked on the litigation between the two organizations say they only found out about this deal seconds before it was announced.

I can’t recall ever witnessing such a high level of disorientation regarding a business development. It’s not solely due to the geopolitical animosity, after the Saudi-funded upstart LIV lured stars like Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka, leading the PGA to issue suspensions and fines and resulting in a major antitrust lawsuit and intense lobbying of Congress. The bewilderment also arises from what lies ahead: How the hell do they expect to gain necessary approvals for this marriage? And if the deal falls through, what happens then?