Sen. Blumenthal presses PIF on motivations for U.S. investments

Sen. Blumenthal presses PIF on motivations for U.S. investments
Please Share

Wednesday’s hearing before the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations was titled “The PGA Tour-LIV Deal: Examining the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund’s Investments in the United States,” but it had little to do with the framework agreement between the Tour and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.

Instead, subcommittee chair Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., doubled down on his efforts to understand the Public Investment Fund’s investments in the United States and the Kingdom’s motivations behind those investments.

“I’m not letting this issue go,” Blumenthal said in his opening remarks.

Unlike the hearing held before the same subcommittee in July there were no Tour officials asked to testify on Wednesday and much of the testimony focused on Saudi Arabia’s attempt to use its vast investment fund to influence policy and public support.

“If the Saudi government is not buying into a profitable investment what are they buying? In short, silence. They want to muzzle Americans critical of the regime. And, they want to rebrand themselves. They want Americans to associate Saudi Arabia with golf rather than the brutal murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi,” Ben Freeman with the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft told the subcommittee.

“If this merger [between the PIF and Tour] goes through the Saudi government will have a stranglehold on the international game of golf and a crown jewel in their reputation laundering efforts in the U.S.”

Shortly before the hearing began Sen. Blumenthal announced he’d issued a subpoena to one of the PIF’s U.S. subsidiaries “for documents related to PIF’s takeover of American golf and other investments throughout the United States.”

Blumenthal had requested PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan and LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman testify at a hearing before the subcommittee in July but both cited scheduling conflicts and didn’t attend. Last month Blumenthal sent another request to the PIF for Al-Rumayyan to testify before the subcommittee but representatives for the governor claimed his “government position prevents him from testifying about his involvement in PIF’s extensive U.S. business investments.”

In a letter dated Aug. 23 from Al-Rumayyan’s counsel Raphael Prober the fund offered to “provide a factual briefing regarding the [framework] agreement from an appropriate representative of the PIF” but declined to make the governor available to testify.

“In your August 16 letter, you state that, if [Al-Rumayyan] declines to appear at a hearing voluntarily, the Subcommittee will consider ‘other legal methods to compel . . . compliance,’” Prober wrote. “An unprecedented effort by the Subcommittee to compel [Al-Rumayyan’s] appearance and testimony would not only disrupt the delicate balance of foreign relations and international diplomacy, but would also compromise the prerogatives of the Executive Branch.”

The subcommittee announced it intended to examine the PIF’s investments in golf only after the fund and Tour signed a “framework” agreement in June. But the fund’s interest in the game dates back to last year’s launch of LIV Golf and internal memos dating to 2018 show the PIF’s earlier plans to create the league as part of something called “Project Wedge.”

The Tour, PIF and DP World Tour are currently negotiating a possible “definitive” agreement that would create a new for-profit entity and end the turf war that has consumed professional golf for the past two years. Under the terms of the original deal the “definitive” agreement must be completed before the end of the year.

Source link