PGA Tour to offer players equity ownership

Tiger Woods of the United States and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland walk to the 11th fairway during a practice round prior to the 2023 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 03, 2023 in Augusta, Georgia. 

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The PGA Tour said Tuesday it will begin to offer professional players direct equity ownership in the new company that will be formed after it reaches a deal with investors, according to an internal memo obtained by CNBC.

The tour is currently in negotiations working toward an investment agreement with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which owns LIV Golf, and the DP World Tour. The talks with PIF and the DP World Tour remain the tour’s “top priority,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said in Tuesday’s memo.

The sides reached a framework agreement earlier this year to combine the business interests of the golf leagues. The development triggered anger and criticism, including from players such as Rory McIlroy. The Senate held hearings to investigate claims that the deal was meant to increase Saudi Arabia’s influence in the U.S. through sports investments.

The new program outlined in Tuesday’s memo is the latest move to align the interests of PGA Tour players with the business itself.

“At the point we secure outside investment, this would be a unique offering in professional sports, as no other league grants its players/members direct equity ownership in the league’s business,” wrote. “We recognize – as do all of the prospective minority investors who are in dialogue with us – that the PGA TOUR will be stronger with our players more closely aligned with the commercial success of the business.”

Monahan also wrote that the Tour’s agreement with PIF and DP World Tour has generated interest from other investors. The board is currently reviewing private investors’ bids and will keep negotiating to select finalists, he added.

Last week, Fenway Sports Group Chairman Tom Werner acknowledged that the company has held talks with the PGA Tour, but declined to comment with any further details. There’s been speculation that Fenway could come up with an offer that tops the Saudis’ bid.

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