PGA Tour seeks to have governor of Saudi PIF deposed, comply with discovery
LIV Golf and its disruptive introduction into professional golf began as a concept named “Project Wedge,” according to a motion filed by the PGA Tour Friday in U.S. District Court.
“Project Wedge” was the internal designation at the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for LIV Golf according to the motion, which seeks to have Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the PIF and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund, deposed and comply with discovery in a lawsuit that was filed against the Tour by a group of players and LIV Golf earlier this summer.
Although Al-Rumayyan and the PIF are not named in the lawsuit, the fund has invested $2 billion and owns an estimated 85 percent of LIV, although the exact amount has been redacted in the court filings.
Attorneys for Al-Rumayyan and PIF argued the fund “is an organ and integral part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” and “is entitled to sovereign immunity unless the Tour can establish an exception. It cannot.” The motion to quash the Tour’s request also claimed PIF and Al-Rumayyan provides only “high-level oversight, not the pervasive control over day-to-day operations [of LIV]” and argued that “PIF’s governing law prohibits disclosure of internal information.”
The Tour’s response, however, claimed Al-Rumayyan “functions as LIV’s chief executive, meeting regularly with LIV’s nominal CEO Greg Norman, approving LIV’s budget, making key strategic decisions, participating in player recruitment in the United States, and micro-managing LIV’s day-to-day operations.
“PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan are central figures. They are the wizard behind the curtain: they call the shots, they approve the expenditures, and they supply the money,” the motion read.
In fact, the Tour’s attorneys point out LIV Golf’s own rules and regulations refer to Al-Rumayyan as the circuit’s “Chairman of the Board and the CEO and Commissioner” and that he actively met with and recruited players to LIV.
The nearly 200-page motion paints a picture of close collaboration between the PIF and LIV, including more than 400 emails between PIF executives and executives with LIV in the United States, that goes back to the earliest vestiges of the rival league, including “evidence regarding PIF’s involvement with the [Premier Golf League] and the true reason for the PGL’s collapse, is within PIF’s control.”
Northern District of California Judge Susan van Keulen could rule on the motions based on written arguments or she could require an in-person hearing before ruling.