PGA commish: Saudi deal deadline ‘firm target’


NASSAU, Bahamas — PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan is scheduled to meet with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, next week to continue negotiations on a potential alliance, and Monahan said he hopes to reach a deal with the PIF and at least one other investor before the end of the year.

Monahan, speaking at The New York Times’ DealBook Summit in New York City on Wednesday night, called the Dec. 31 deadline for a framework agreement with the PIF and DP World Tour a “firm target.”

“We’re having conversations with multiple parties,” Monahan said. “The deadline for our conversations with PIF, as you know, is a firm target. I’ll be with Yasir next week, and we continue to advance our conversations. And I think it’s pretty well known that there’s a large number of other interested parties that we’re also pushing to think about.”

Fenway Sports Group, which owns the Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Penguins, Liverpool F.C. of the Premier League and other sports properties, has emerged as one of the leading U.S.-based investors, along with KKR & Co. investment firm co-founder Henry Kravis.

At a U.S. Congressional hearing regarding the pending deal on July 12, PGA Tour chief operating officer Ron Price revealed that the PIF has pledged to invest more than $1 billion in the new for-profit entity, known as PGA Tour Enterprises, that will be controlled by the PGA Tour.

Sources previously told ESPN that the PGA Tour was considering another U.S.-based investor — along with the PIF — because of concerns about government scrutiny. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division expanded its investigation of the PGA Tour’s alleged monopolistic practices to include the proposed framework agreement.

“When this gets finalized, the PGA Tour is going to be in a position that I talked about earlier, where again, the athletes are owners in their sport, and you’ve got not only the PIF, but you’ve likely got another co-investor, with significant experience in business, in sport and brand that’s going to help take the PGA Tour to another level and help us take share from other sports and even be more competitive,” Monahan said. “What’s most important to our players is that they go from the model of being independent contractors to being owners.”

At the summit Wednesday night, Monahan, 53, revealed more details about the mental health concerns that caused him to take a leave of absence shortly after the June 6 framework agreement was announced. He took a leave of absence June 14 and returned to work July 17.

“I think what’s happening to me in my head around that time frame was not too dissimilar to what was happening to me in my head in the months prior to it,” Monahan said. “This had been an extended conflict. It had affected me, my mental and my physical health.”

Many PGA Tour players, including Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, criticized Monahan and the tour’s leadership for leaving them in the dark while they negotiated the deal with the PIF and DP World Tour.

“He understands what happened prior to that can’t happen again and won’t happen again, not with the players that are involved and not with the player directors having the role that we have,” said Woods, who joined the PGA Tour’s policy board as a player director Aug. 1.

Monahan, the PGA Tour’s commissioner since January 2017, said he went for a walk on the beach June 11. When Monahan returned home, he told his wife, “I think I need help.”

“I knew I’m the first person to run into a fight,” Monahan said. “Anybody that knows me will tell you that. And I knew the perception was that I was running away from a fight, and that was excruciating. That hurt me to my core.

“You’ll hear people talk a lot about ‘I focus on the things I can control.’ I wasn’t doing a good job of that. I was confusing that. I am fully focused on the things I control. And so you have to realize that it’s part of life, it’s part of who I am, it’s my truth. And I am a work in progress. And I’m just every single day trying to improve.”

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