The PGA TOUR logo is seen during the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines South on January 29, 2021 in San Diego, California.
Ben Jared | because of the round | Getty Images
The Justice Department’s antitrust division has notified the PGA Tour that it will review the organization’s proposed merger with Saudi-funded LIV Golf, a source told NBC News Thursday.
The Department of Justice and LIV Golf declined to comment.
In a statement to CNBC, the PGA Tour said, “We are confident that once all stakeholders learn more about how the PGA TOUR will lead this new project, they will understand how it will benefit our players, fans, and our sport while protecting the American golf establishment.”
A source familiar with the situation says any interest by the DOJ would be an extension of the existing investigation, and it wouldn’t be unusual for US antitrust authorities to review a deal with this profile. They also say the review does not indicate that the transaction violated antitrust laws.
The Department of Justice was already conducting an investigation into professional golf, in light of the LIV litigation.
The announcement of the deal last week immediately raised antitrust concerns.
This week, the Democratic Senate. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Ron Wyden of Oregon have urged the Justice Department to open an investigation into the agreement. senator. Richard Blumenthal, D-Con, has also opened an investigation into the deal. Wyden launched his own investigation Thursday.
The PGA Tour’s once adversarial relationship with LIV is already under scrutiny by federal prosecutors who last year began investigating whether the PGA Tour engaged in anti-competitive behavior.
LIV, which is backed by the so-called Public Investment Fund controlled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, divided the world of professional golf when it emerged as a competitor to the PGA Tour.
The emerging league’s links to the kingdom, with its sordid human rights record, have sparked a bevy of controversy. But with the help of $2 billion in investment from the Crown Prince’s Fund, LIV has offered huge prizes and perks and has been able to attract high-profile golfers to play in its tournaments.
Former President Donald Trump hosted a LIV tournament at a New Jersey golf club last summer, infuriating the kingdom’s critics — including families and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The PGA Tour and LIV Golf have shut mouths on and off the court, and PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has publicly criticized the rival league, making the announcement of the proposed merger all the more surprising. The announcement last week indicated that the association would lead to a mutual termination of all pending lawsuits.
If a merger takes place, the two entities will combine their businesses and interests into a new for-profit corporation. Monahan told the players in a memo that the PGA Tour Policy Board would have to approve the agreement.
The PGA Tour revealed Tuesday that Monahan is currently recovering from an unspecified medical issue and is taking a leave of absence.