Tour amends countersuit to add PIF, governor; Saudi Arabia warns of ‘broad implications’
In a flurry of overnight activity, the PGA Tour amended its countersuit against LIV Golf to include the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and its governor as defendants, while the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia informed the court it plans to file an amicus brief in the case that has now ballooned well beyond the original antitrust implications.
Last week, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that PIF and its governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, must submit to discovery in the antitrust case that was filed against the Tour by a group of players who had joined LIV Golf. On Tuesday, the judge granted the Tour’s motion to add the PIF and Al-Rumayyan as defendants in its countersuit.
The Tour filed its amended complaint, adding the PIF to the lawsuit, late Thursday shortly after attorneys for Saudi Arabia informed the court it plans to submit an amicus brief regarding the addition of the PIF as defendants. It cautioned the judge’s ruling “has broad implications for Saudi Arabia beyond the instant case” and that Saudi Arabia “intends to provide its views to the court on all of these matters.”
In a separate motion, the Tour challenged the judge’s decision to allow PIF and Al-Rumayyan to dictate the location of their depositions. The fund requested in a Tuesday e-mail that the depositions, which they seem certain to appeal, be taken in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which prompted a challenge from the Tour.
“It would also endanger the Tour and its counsel, who would be forced to take the court-ordered discovery in Saudi Arabia, where perceived criticism of the government can be punished with years in prison and where, according to PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan, such discovery would violate Saudi Arabian law and expose the Tour and its counsel to imprisonment,” attorneys for the Tour argued in a motion to compel the court to order the deposition be taken in the United States.
The Tour also argued now that PIF and Al-Rumayyan have been added as defendants in the counterclaim, they “must comply with their obligations just like any litigant in U.S. court proceedings.”
PIF has argued that it’s nothing more than an investor in LIV Golf and it has no control of the day-to-day operations of the league, which begins its season Thursday in Mexico. The magistrate judge, however, ruled that “PIF and [Al-Rumayyan] control virtually every major aspect of LIV’s operation and authorized and control LIV’s lawsuit [against the Tour].”
There’s a previously scheduled case management conference today before Judge Beth Labson Freeman in the Northern District of California that will likely be dominated by the addition of the PIF and Al-Rumayyan as defendants.