PGA Goes After Saudi Fund and Its Chief as LIV Feud Widens

(Bloomberg) -- PGA Tour Inc. is widening its antitrust clash with Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf, asking a US judge for permission to add the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund as a defendant to a lawsuit it filed last year.

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The $620 billion Public Investment Fund and its chief, Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyan, allegedly helped LIV violate US antitrust laws by luring PGA players with millions of dollars to breach their contracts, the PGA Tour said in a filing Tuesday night in federal court in San Jose, California.

“Recently produced documents confirm that PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan played an active and central role in orchestrating these breaches for their own benefit and are equally liable for the harm caused to the Tour,” the PGA said.

The rival circuits sued each other in the same court last year for alleged anticompetitive behavior, with the PGA accused of punishing players who golfed for LIV in order to starve the upstart of the best talent. Both circuits have denied wrongdoing in the dispute, which goes to trial next January.

‘Active Role’

John Quinn and other lawyers representing PIF and Al-Rumayyan didn’t immediately respond to messages Wednesday seeking comment on the PGA’s filing.

The PGA asked for a May 18 hearing on its request, which must be approved by a judge.

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“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 said in its filing.

The PGA’s attempt to add LIV’s financial backer to the suit comes amid a conflict over where the fund, called PIF, and Al-Rumayyan should be required to submit documents and testimony in the case — something they argued they didn’t need to do because they weren’t parties to the suit and have sovereign immunity. If added as defendants in the suit, they would no longer be able to claim that immunity, the PGA Tour said.

Golf Greats

The fight between the two tours began when 11 professional golfers, including Phil Mickelson, Talor Gooch and Matt Jones, sued the PGA in August for suspending them after they signed on with LIV. LIV joined the suit a month later, prompting Mickelson, Gooch and six others to withdraw from the suit.

PGA then countersued, claiming LIV’s alleged interference with PGA players’ contracts harmed its brand and reputation.

LIV claims PGA is a monopolist seeking to sabotage a competing player in the industry.

The case is Jones v. PGA Tour Inc., 22-cv-04486, US District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

(Updates with details of the PGA’s filing.)

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