Attorneys representing the PGA Tour want to add the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund and the fund’s manager, Yasir Othman Al-Rumayan, as defendants in the tour’s counterclaim against LIV Golf.
In a motion for permission filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern California on Tuesday, attorneys for the PGA Tour said recently filed documents from LIV Golf confirm that PIF and Al-Rumayyan played an active role in causing the golfers to breach their contracts with the PGA Tour by joining the LIV Golf chain.
“As alleged in the existing counterclaim, LIV willfully and knowingly caused these players to breach their contractual obligations to the TOUR by misrepresenting the TOUR contracts; causing these violations by offering extremely lucrative contracts that make it impossible for players to honor their TOUR contracts; and awarding broad damages and hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate LIV players for these violations,” PGA Tour attorneys wrote in the motion. “The recently submitted documents confirm that PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan played an active and central role in orchestrating these violations for their own benefit and are equally responsible for the harm caused to TOUR.”
In August, several players who were suspended by the PGA Tour for participating in LIV golf tournaments without releases of conflicting events filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour, alleging that it used its monopoly power to stifle competition and discourage broadcasters and other suppliers from working with LIV Golf. LIV Golf and three of its players are the other plaintiffs in the case.
The PGA Tour filed a counterclaim alleging that LIV Golf interfered with its player contracts.
Attorneys for the PGA Tour wrote in Tuesday’s filing that LIV Golf, which is funded by the PIF, is the end result of a plan known as Project Wedge that is “intended to provide a road map to take over professional golf as part of the Kingdom of Vision of Saudi Arabia 2030.” Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is reported to be $620 billion.
Lawyers for the PGA Tour argued that LIV Golf’s subscriptions and shareholders’ agreement, which they obtained through discovery in December, were “the pivotal point that demonstrates PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayan’s complete control of LIV and establishes that each A LIV contract with a player requires permission from the PIF.”
“In addition to exercising near-absolute power over LIV, PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan personally recruited TOUR players, played an active role in contract negotiations, and expressly approved each of the players’ contracts — all while knowing that these deals will interfere with players’ TOUR contracts,” PGA Tour lawyers wrote in the motion.
“In addition to approving player contracts that promise to indemnify such players from breach of their contractual obligations to the TOUR, Mr. Al-Rumayan himself went so far as to provide personal assurances to at least one player regarding his and the PIF’s commitment to support such player in any legal claims by the TOUR.”
In previous motions, LIV Golf’s attorneys argued that the PGA Tour was exaggerating PIF’s control over the new course. In a sworn statement, Al-Rumayan said the fund only provides “high-level oversight” of LIV.
PIF owns at least 93% of LIV Golf, according to court documents. Former LIV Golf COO and president Atul Khosla told ESPN in October that the course, which is managed by two-time Open winner Greg Norman, spent more than $784 million in operating costs during its inaugural 2022 season. Khosla resigned from his position in December.
PGA Tour attorneys have unsuccessfully sought documents from the PIF through discovery and have so far been unable to depose Al-Rumayan. The attorneys said in court filings that PIF and Al-Rumayyan believe “that no court in the United States has jurisdiction over them, that they are immune from due process, and that they have no information or documents related to the case.”