Motivated by a desire to unite, Jimmy Dunne explains how, why Tour and Saudis aligned
The architect behind the groundbreaking agreement that was announced Tuesday between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia covered a wide range of topics in an interview Thursday on “Golf Central”.
Jimmy Dunne, the senior managing principal of investment bank Piper Sandler and vice chairman of the PGA Tour’s policy board, said the agreement with the PIF was needed to end the “animosity” and “divisive environment” that has controlled the game for the last year.
Dunne, who is also the president of Seminole Golf Club, was also asked about his previous comments regarding LIV Golf, the PIF and Saudi Arabia. Piper Sandler (formerly known as Sandler O’Neill & Partners) was located on the 104th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center and lost 66 employees during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“Every day the first thing I think about is that, several times during the day, I think about it and the last thing I think about at night is that,” Dunne said. “That has not changed since that day and I’m not alone in that. I would guarantee you that every one of those family members has that same condition. It’s just a reality of how unbelievably sad and awful that day was.
“I am quite certain and have had conversations with a lot of knowledgeable people that the people that I’m dealing with [from the PIF] had nothing to do with [the Sept. 11 attacks]. And if someone can find someone that unequivocally was involved with it, I’ll kill him myself. We don’t have to wait around.”
The agreement with the PIF was quickly criticized by groups representing the families of 9/11 victims and an emotional Dunne said part of his motivation to bridge the divide in professional golf was driven by his experiences following the attacks.
“We need to come together as a people. We have too much divisiveness,” he said. “There’s a point in time when you have to say, ‘let’s try to get to know one another. Let’s try to understand, let’s try to demonstrate by example.’
“I believe that we should not run away from our differences and we should get to know each other and basically make it difficult so that the extreme, vicious, immoral aspects of the people of the world, we don’t have to have a family deal with what we dealt with 20-plus years ago. As awful as it was for me, it was way worse for other people. I can’t imagine if one of my children were involved. I have a real empathy but I’d like to do something about it … that starts with communicating.”
That communication began seven weeks ago and included four face-to-face meetings between Dunne, fellow policy board member Ed Herlihy and, eventually, Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley.
Dunne said the timing of the talks was important, given a recent ruling in the United Kingdom in favor of the DP World Tour enforcing its policies against players who joined LIV Golf, and the PGA Tour’s current financial stability.
“When the outreach occurred, we were in our strongest position so if there was anything that hurt the game of golf we could walk away,” Dunne said. “We felt very good from a sponsorship standpoint, from a television standpoint, from a legal standpoint, so that at this point in time it was the time to have a conversation.”
The talks between the two sides moved quickly and trust with the PIF’s governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, was crucial to the agreement.
“I thought it was important to visit with him [Al-Rumayyan] and get to know him and find out if there was something we could do together and unite the game,” Dunne said. “We worked as quickly as we could and as thoroughly as we could.”
One of the big concerns by many was that, with the alliance, the PIF would control the professional game. Dunne noted that in the agreement, Monahan would be CEO of the new entity and, therefore, be the leader.
“By definition, as much as I liked the people I dealt with, the game of golf is too important, the legacy of the PGA Tour is too important. The people that we have in place have too much experience that we have no desire, no need – there is no way on God’s green earth that we’re going to give up control,” Dunne said.
Among the most pressing issues moving forward that an initial agreement has been reached, is how players who remained loyal to the PGA Tour are compensated for that loyalty and those who left for guaranteed paydays at LIV Golf are provided a path back to the PGA Tour and European circuit.
“We have to make sure that whatever it is that we finalize, that they feel good about their [the players who remained with the PGA Tour] decisions,” he said. “I think we can get there. I don’t think it’s going to be easy and I don’t think we’re all going to agree, but I think we can get there.”
What exactly that path back and the compensation looks like remains to be seen, and Dunne said he will remain involved in the process as the two sides work out the details of the new agreement.
“When all the issues are dealt with, some of the venom and some of the self-centered concerns, as we get through that and we come up with a methodology that people can reenter, when we establish what the criteria will be, there needs to be something that people that didn’t go [to LIV Golf], people that stayed with us, they need to feel good about it,” Dunne said. “I don’t want it to be so outrageously punitive in nature … I want to try to get a balance and make sure that while everyone’s needs are heard and felt that we do what’s right for the game.”