January 5, 2024

Liverpool owners FSG ‘close in on £2.4bn deal’ amid talks with PIF | Golf | Sport

The owners of Liverpool Football Club appear to be closing in on a huge deal that could change the landscape of elite men’s golf. Fenway Sports Group has made ‘meaningful progress’ on £2.4bn agreement that would see the sports business consortium acquire a minority stake in the PGA Tour.

But the deal could drop the American outfit into an immediate power struggle with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – the backers of LIV Golf and owners of Newcastle United Football Club.

The world of professional golf was rocked to its core last June when PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan announced that the PGA Tour had settled on a ‘framework agreement’ with the rival LIV Golf league to merge the two tours together alongside the DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour).

A deadline of December 31, 2023, was set for the merger deal to be finalised but despite ongoing talks, that initial deadline has come and gone. However, a memo from the PGA Tour that was cascaded to its member players on New Year’s Eve advised that talks with LIV Golf were set to continue in the new year.

A news bulletin on the PGA Tour’s official website also offered a significant update on talks with Strategic Sports Group (SSG) which is the name of the consortium which is attempting to invest in the PGA Tour. Liverpool FC owners FSG are part of SSG.

The update from Monahan advised that “we have made meaningful progress” in negotiations with SSG and are currently working toward finalisation of terms and drafting necessary documents.

Monahan also described discussions with LIV owners PIF and the DP World Tour as “active and productive”.

The PGA Tour’s end goal is to bring together SSG, PIF and the DP World Tour as minority co-investors in a newly merged entity called PGA Tour Enterprises in 2024.

Monahan added: “These partnerships will allow us to unify, innovate and invest in the game for the benefit of the players, fans and sponsors.”

FSG already owns several sports teams in addition to Liverpool FC including the Boston Red Sox baseball franchise and NHL outfit the Pittsburgh Penguins. The group has already made its first investment in golf by purchasing a franchise in the newly formed digitally-led TGL competition, which has seen its launch delayed by 12 months.

LIV Golf caused a huge disruption to golf’s status quo in 2022 by successfully luring away several high-profile stars from the PGA Tour with the incentive of hugely lucrative deals that run into the hundreds of millions.

Despite ongoing talks between the game’s power brokers, 2023 Masters Champion Jon Rahm has become the latest player to switch sides, joining LIV in a reported £450m deal that immediately made the Spaniard one the highest-earning sportspeople on the planet.

PIF appeared to be getting the upper hand on the PGA Tour when Monahan announced the intention of the previously warring tours to merge, but the arrival of SSG at the negotiation table suggests that genuine compromise could be in the offering. Whether the Saudi operation are prepared to work under such terms remains to be seen.

Liverpool FC and FSG Chairman Tom Werner confirmed in November that his group were interested in being part of a new-look PGA Tour. He told the Boston Globe: “There are a number of people who have raised their hands to say that they would be interested in helping the new PGA, and it’s really up to the players and the board to decide the direction they want to go in. We’ve said that we think that we can help them, but it’s really up to them to decide the path.

“We’ve always thought golf is a growth sport and we feel we have competency in hospitality, in ticketing, creating enthusiasm for the venue that you come to, sponsorship, relations with the fans — these are areas that we have expertise in.

“There’s a narrative that we’re taking our eye off the ball. Our focus is obviously on the businesses that we are working in. If this happens, it happens, but it’s not going to divert our attention.”


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