Report: PGA Tour allowed to directly sue LIV 'mastermind' and its Saudi backers

A judge has ruled the PGA Tour can add Saudi Arabia's PIF and its governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, as defendants in their countersuit against LIV Golf.

Ben Smith's picture
Wed, 22 Feb 2023
Report: PGA Tour allowed to directly sue LIV 'mastermind' and its Saudi backers

A judge has ruled the PGA Tour can add Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) and its governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan as defendants in their countersuit against the LIV Golf League

The ruling was confirmed on 21 February. The Wall Street Journal first reported the news that Beth Labson Freeman, sitting in the Northern District of California, had granted the PGA Tour's motion. 

Related: Which players have been dropped by LIV Golf?

PGA Tour lawyers had requested leave to amend its counterclaim to LIV's antitrust litigation by adding PIF and Al-Rumayyan as defendants. 

The PGA Tour have stated LIV had interfered with players' contracts. LIV say the PGA Tour is acting "as a monopoly in the professional golf market".

Attorneys representing LIV Golf had argued the motion to delay would cause harm to their players who had been suspended.

In her ruling, Freeman wrote: 

"LIV argues instead that granting leave to amend would harm both the player plaintiffs and LIV by potentially delaying resolution of the case.
"According to LIV, this potential delay could harm the player plaintiffs by preventing them from being able to earn a living in their chosen profession during the prime of their careers, and it could harm LIV by allowing the tour's alleged anticompetitive conduct to continue during the pendency of the case."

The judge said that she was "sensitive to the golfers' need to earn a living", but LIV had:

"Not identified how allowing the proposed amendment would cause any of the plaintiffs undue difficulty in prosecuting their case." 

"The wizard behind the curtain"

It's hard to keep up, but this news comes after another judge - Susan van Keulen - rejected arguments from PIF lawyers that Al-Rumayyan and the Saudi wealth fund couldn't be deposed by PGA lawyers. 

LIV attorneys had argued that Al-Rumayyan, 53, and the PIF had sovereign immunity and were therefore protected from legal probes. 

It was previously argued that PIF and Al-Rumayyan were "merely investors in LIV Golf". 

PGA Tour attorneys argue the Saudi businessman - who is also the chief executive Newcastle United - is the real mastermind of the breakaway tour. 

He was described in court documents as "the wizard behind the curtain" and it was suggested he was personally involved in player recruitment

It has been reported that lawyers will ask a federal judge to review the decision to allow PGA attorneys to depose the PIF and Al-Rumayyan. 

A hearing for that is scheduled for 24 February, the same day in which LIV begin their second season in Mexico. 

Related: LIV Golf League 2023: Players, teams, captains

This legal battle began on 3 August 2022 when Phil Mickelson and 10 other professional golfers filed an antitrust lawsuit. 

Mickelson and the other players withdrew from the litigation when LIV Golf joined Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Jones and Peter Uihlein as the remaining plaintiffs. 

DeChambeau has said the only reason he remains involved in the litigation is because he alleges the PGA Tour are withholding bonus money he earned from the inaugural Player Impact Program, won by Tiger Woods

Next page: Ernie Els condemns South African LIV players