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PGA Tour seeks to sue Saudi sovereign wealth fund and its boss

Golf association moves to add PIF and chief Yasir al-Rumayyan to lawsuit against Riyadh-financed LIV Golf
Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund chair Yasir Al-Rumayyan takes part in the Pro-Am round of the LIV Golf Invitational Series event at The Centurion Club in St Albans, England on 8 June 2022 (AFP)
Yasir al-Rumayyan, chair of the Saudi PIF, takes part in the Pro-Am round of the LIV Golf Invitational Series event at the Centurion Club in St Albans, England on 8 June 2022 (AFP)

The PGA Tour is seeking to add Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and its chief, Yasir al-Rumayyan, to a lawsuit filed against its Riyadh-backed rival LIV Golf. 

PGA Tour, which organises most of international golf’s flagship events, filed a suit in a California federal court in September accusing the rival association of luring its players to breach their contracts by offering them multimillion-dollar deals. 

'PIF and Mr al-Rumayyan have personally recruited tour players, played an active role in contract negotiations, and expressly approved each of the player contracts'

PGA court submission

PGA told the San Jose court on Tuesday that documents provided by LIV revealed that "PIF and Mr al-Rumayyan were instrumental" in inducing players to breach their contracts, and should therefore be added to the ongoing lawsuit.

“PIF and Mr al-Rumayyan have personally recruited tour players, played an active role in contract negotiations, and expressly approved each of the player contracts - all while knowing that these deals would interfere with the players’ tour contracts,” the PGA Tour said in the court filing.

The association has sought to obtain more documents from the Saudi fund and its chief in relation to the lawsuit, but PIF claims that it has sovereign immunity and cannot be forced to turn over information.

Adding them as defendants in the lawsuit would mean they no longer have such immunity, PGA claims.

The $255m LIV Golf series, financed by Riyadh's Public Investment Fund (PIF), hosted several events in 2022, including one in Saudi Arabia and two at US golf clubs owned by former President Donald Trump.

The two golf associations have been engaged in a battle over the past year, after a number of key golf stars decided to sign with LIV, including three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, who said the Saudi golf league gave him and golfers willing to participate "leverage" against the PGA Tour.

Last August, several players and LIV Golf sued the PGA on anti-trust grounds. Then, in September, the PGA filed a countersuit against LIV, accusing it of interfering with its players' contracts.

'MBS has been paying Trump'

The PIF, which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is at the centre of Saudi Arabia's efforts to remake the kingdom's economy and diversify away from petrodollars. 

Its chief, Rumayyan, is also the chairman of Newcastle United, after a consortium led by the PIF purchased the English football club in October 2021. 

US rights group demands probe into Trump's business with Saudi-financed golf league
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The PIF owns 93 percent of LIV and pays all of the costs associated with its events, the court heard last week. 

Rights group Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn) has called on the US government to investigate dealings between LIV and Trump. 

"The revelation that a fund controlled by the crown prince actually owns almost all of LIV Golf means that MBS has been paying Donald Trump unknown millions for the past two years, via their mutual corporate covers," Sarah Leah Whitson, Dawn's executive director, said in a statement.

"The national security implications of payments from a grotesquely abusive foreign dictator to a president of the United States who provided extraordinary favours to him are as dangerous as they are shocking."

Last year, the former US president hosted LIV tournaments at his golf resorts in Florida and New Jersey, to the condemnation of rights groups as well as the families of 9/11 victims who protested outside of the tournament held in New Jersey.

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