Senator issues letter to Jay Monahan questioning Saudi Arabia’s ownership stake
In a sweeping, 21-point letter sent to PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) became the most-recent lawmaker to challenge the circuit’s recently-announced agreement with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.
The letter, which was sent Thursday, requests more details of the deal that will create a new, for-profit entity between the Tour, the PIF, LIV Golf and the DP World Tour, including who will have ownership shares of the new company and any other provisions of the “framework” agreement.
“The PGA Tour’s involvement with PIF raises significant questions about whether organizations that tie themselves to an authoritarian regime that has continually undermined the rule of law should continue to enjoy tax-exempt status in the United States,” Wyden wrote.
Wyden also questioned how the agreement might impact “America’s national interests,” including the Tour’s ownership of property “near U.S. military facilities or sensitive manufacturing facilities.”
“After the transaction, will the PIF own, directly or indirectly, any interest in any U.S. real estate?” Wyden wrote.
The letter is another blow to the agreement that was announced last week and has prompted a new review of possible antitrust violations by the Justice Department. It also expands the scope of lawmaker interests to include Monahan’s own compensation.
“Commissioner Monahan’s annual compensation in 2021 totaled nearly $14 million (almost double the compensation he received in 2017 when he became commissioner), and the Tour and affiliated organizations paid 19 officers and employees more than $1 million annually – at a total cost of more than $63 million for your top staff,” Wyden wrote. “It is difficult to rationalize how any further increases in compensation to Tour executives would be in the best interest of the PGA Tour or further the Tour’s tax exempt purpose.”
The Tour announced Tuesday that Monahan was recuperating from a “medical situation” and that the day-to-day operation of the Tour had been shifted to executive vice president and president Tyler Dennis and chief operating officer Ron Price as Monahan recovers.
Wyden’s letter also took aim at Ed Herlihy – who along with fellow Tour policy board member Jimmy Dunne and Monahan brokered the deal with the PIF. Specifically, the letter requests information regarding Herlihy’s status as a partner with the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.
“Reports that [Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz] is serving as legal advisor on the transaction raise significant questions about conflicts of interest, given that Ed Herlihy simultaneously serves as the chairman of the PGA Tour’s board of directors, and is a partner at the law firm,” Wyden wrote.