Senate docs reveal more about framework deal, how it happened and what could be next

Senate docs reveal more about framework deal, how it happened and what could be next
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Over 300 pages of documents released Tuesday by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations shortly before the start of a hearing with PGA Tour representatives reveal not only how the PGA Tour’s framework agreement with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund came to fruition but perhaps some insight into what the two parties have planned.

The documents that were turned over to the Senate and reviewed by range from email and messaging correspondence between the Tour and PIF; several iterations and edits of the framework agreement; timing, communications approach, net impact statements and Q&A prep regarding the announcement of the framework deal; and, perhaps most revealing, several PIF proposals to potentially be included in the finalized agreement, including the removal of LIV CEO Greg Norman, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy becoming owners of LIV teams and playing LIV events, and PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan receiving a membership to Augusta National Golf Club.

The communication between the Tour and PIF was facilitated by English businessman and former R&A board member Roger Devlin, who in an email included in the released documents reached out to PGA Tour policy board member Jimmy Dunne, one of two Tour representatives – Tour COO Ron Price was the other – at Tuesday’s Senate hearing. In the email, Devlin explains how he helped facilitate the PIF’s takeover of Newcastle United, reveals that Rory McIlroy met with Al-Rumayyan last November in Dubai to discuss the ongoing rift in the game, and explains that Al-Rumayyan “would be happy” to explore a partnership with the Tour.

“While the parties may appear far apart right now,” Devlin wrote Dunne on Dec. 8, “I do believe there is a common desire among the leading players and shared by His Excellency [Al-Rumayyan] to bring the sport back together in time to impact the 2024 schedule.”

After some brief back-and-forth with Dunne, Devlin later wrote a follow-up email on Jan. 3, offering to set up an introductory call with the Saudis, to which Dunne replied, “Probably not at this time.” Devlin wrote again in mid-April, and four days later, Dunne messaged Al-Rumayyan on WhatsApp, “I would like the opportunity for a call and then hopefully visit.”

Through a series of text messages, Dunne and Al-Rumayyan playfully corresponded through golf talk and emojis, and they eventually set up an initial meeting in London, which took place April 23-24 and was followed by three other meetings over the next couple months, in Venice, San Francisco and New York City. Those meetings also included PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, among a select group of others from both sides.

As the Tour, PIF and, to a lesser extent, the DP World Tour worked out details of the framework deal, several proposals were put forth and discussed. One early set of proposals were emailed by PCP Capital Partners, an adviser of the PIF, to Dunne on April 26 to help start the negotiations.

In the attached slide show, titled the “Best of Both Worlds,” were the following foundational terms for compromise, aka their needs:

• Both parties to stay their respective legal actions immediately

• Cooperation and joint governance of the game of golf on an equal-footing basis, including cross ownership of media rights and harmonizing a complementary PGA Tour/LIV schedule with LIV “not tacked on as an afterthought during silly season.”

• LIV players have full PGA Tour status restored and receive OWGR points, both retrospectively

• LIV players to have unfettered access to majors as per normal qualifying criteria

• LIV players to have full Ryder and Presidents cup rights restored

• Put an end to divisive arguments that benefit no stakeholders

Congress doesn’t have authority to prevent merger

Here were a few of the proposals for consideration, aka their wants:

• Rory and Tiger would own teams and play in at least 10 LIV events

• Initiate a large-scale superstar LIV style team global event to include PGA Tour, LIV and LPGA players with live TV draft and qualifying held in Saudi Arabia with TV revenue flowing to LIV

• Development of global golf investment fund managed by PIF

• LIV would own vehicle for broadcast income

• Al-Rumayyan to become director of International Golf Federation and receive membership to Augusta National and R&A

• Minimum of 2 PGA Tour elevated events branded under Aramco and/or PIF flags, including one in Saudi Arabia

• LIV team branding to continue

• LIV tournaments not to compete with majors, elevated events or international team competitions

Later, in a May 24 side letter sent by Ed Herlihy, it was proposed that Norman’s current role with LIV would be terminated: “In connection with the execution of the framework agreement, the parties hereby agree that the services provided by Greg Norman and Performance54 to LIV will cease upon the management transition to the PGA Tour contemplated by the framework agreement and in any event by no later than one month thereafter.”

The framework agreement was officially signed on May 30.

The documents also included a list of talking points for Monahan for a June 4 policy board meeting. Most notable aside from what’s already been publicly announced:

• PIF required to fund operating losses of LIV Tour

• Norman reassigned to advisory role determined by PIF when PGA Tour becomes manager of the LIV Tour

(A May 15 email written by Tour board member Ed Herlihy to Dunne noted that Monahan “really liked” the idea of Dunne and Herlihy “overseeing” LIV.)

Two days later, on June 6, the framework deal was announced. Though Dunne, via email on June 2, expressed a desire to wait until a more definitive agreement was reached and there were more details to announce, PIF adviser Michael Klein responded back in an email that the “announcement is too big to wait till the definitive.”

“If we don’t put the messages out others will fill in,” Klein added. “… The worst thing we can do is have naysayers lead the chorus.”

Klein also suggested the news be announced in a “brief, softball segment with someone like Becky Quick on CNBC.”

On June 5, the night before the announcement would be made, an email was sent by a Tour official to Klein and others containing the final press release and timing schedule, one that included Monahan and Al-Rumayyan taping an in-person CNBC interview at 8 a.m. ET, Monahan and DPWT CEO Keith Pelley running through a must-call list at 9 a.m. (Monahan was set to first call Woods and McIlroy, though McIlroy said he first found out about the deal through a 6:30 a.m. phone call from Dunne), and a memo and other materials being sent to PGA Tour players, employees, sponsors, media partners and other stakeholders 5 minutes before a scheduled 10:30 a.m. public announcement.

It’s unclear how much the schedule was followed, but at 10 a.m. ET on June 6, a press release announcing the deal was released, followed shortly by the airing of a taped CNBC interview with Monahan and Al-Rumayyan.

Price recently wrote in an op-ed piece for The Athletic that the Tour mishandled the announcement, saying, “Due to the confidential nature of negotiations surrounding the framework agreement, much of the initial reaction has been negative, colored by misinformation or misunderstanding. That’s something we take full ownership of and deeply regret.”

On Tuesday, Price and Dunne sat before several Senators, including Richard Blumenthal, Ron Johnson and Rand Paul. Neither Monahan nor Al-Rumayyan attended Tuesday’s Senate hearing. Norman, another Senate request, was absent, too.

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