Unsealed emails detail Yasir Al-Rumayyan’s involvement in LIV Golf

As a Senate subcommittee seeks to clarify the impact and influence of Saudi investors on the PGA Tour, unsealed court documents show that Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, was personally involved in LIV Golf’s launch the competing route.

While Al-Rumayyan’s interest in golf and his role in the PIF, which includes LIV Golf and is negotiating an alliance with the PGA Tour, were never in question, lawyers had previously downplayed his day-to-day involvement with LIV Golf.

Emails unsealed Thursday evening show that officials kept Al-Rumayyan informed about LIV business discussions and sought his approval before moving forward with key initiatives. A July 2022 email from Atul Khosla, a former LIV executive, to his colleagues appeared to refer to the turmoil the start-up league faced in its inaugural season. “Must be shown [Al-Rumayyan] How have we tried to change the narrative? I’m trying to think of the best way to provide updates/screenshots of important articles, what we have in the works, chatter on social media? Open to ideas, but I need to make it clear to him that we are moving things in the right direction.”

Other emails and documents indicated that Al-Rumayyan, who serves as chairman of LIV Golf, was briefed on and approved operational activities, such as LIV’s launch date and its partnership with the Asian Tour. A document describing LIV operations mentioned a weekly meeting with Al-Rumayyan and LIV executives, including Greg Norman, the league’s executive director; plus a monthly meeting with the PIF Board; and an annual strategic planning “workshop” involving Al-Rumayyan and LIV leadership.

The documents were voluntarily unsealed by LIV lawyers late Thursday night, months after a motion by the New York Times asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to release more than 60 records, even as the litigation between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf has ended. LIV lawyers say the vast majority of records should remain sealed, but “in the interest of simplifying this dispute” with the Times, the organization unsealed 13 records. A U.S. district judge will decide whether additional documents should be released.

While the unsealed documents will have no bearing on the now-settled legal dispute between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, they could be of interest to lawmakers investigating the proposed alliance between the Tour and LIV’s Saudi patrons. The Saudi PIF and Al-Rumayyan have rebuffed attempts by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to testify at a planned hearing on Capitol Hill this month. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), the subcommittee chairman, has made a sweeping request for PIF documents and last month reiterated his demand that Al-Rumayyan appear before the subcommittee, threatening to use “other legal methods.” To be considered to enforce “PIF compliance” if the PIF governor refuses.

The subcommittee has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday, but the witness list suggests the discussion will focus more on geopolitics than golf. Al-Rumayyan will not appear and the subcommittee will instead hear from witnesses who will speak about human rights issues, 9/11 and foreign influence and interference.

PGA Tour and LIV Golf officials did not immediately respond seeking comment on the newly unsealed documents.

If the PGA Tour’s alliance with the Saudi PIF is finalized, Al-Rumayyan will be among the most influential figures in professional golf, serving as chairman of the tour’s new for-profit organization and taking a seat on the tour’s policy board. PGA Tour executives have maintained that the tour still has final say on operational and business decisions and insist that the tour will not cede control of the sport to a foreign organization.

The rise of Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the potential new king of golf

Despite owning 93 percent of LIV, the PIF had tried in some court filings to distance itself from LIV Golf, saying at one point: “PIF invested in a Jersey-based company (a British dependency) that owned another company based in Jersey, which owns …” , in turn owns LIV; PIF does not own shares in LIV.” The filing claimed that the fund “provides high-level oversight” and “does not manage or control the day-to-day operations of LIV.”

The PGA Tour, meanwhile, repeatedly asserted that the PIF played a crucial, hands-on role in LIV operations, saying in filings that the fund “had effective control over LIV” and that Al-Rumayyan had “near absolute authority over LIV.” exercised. ”

A US judge appeared to favor the PGA Tour’s interpretation, saying in a ruling: “It is clear that PIF is not a mere investor in LIV.”

The newly released records show that Al-Rumayyan was involved in discussions about the formation of LIV and was kept abreast of some key developments. A month before LIV’s existence became public, he met in New York with Norman and Jed Moore, an executive at Performance54, the golf management firm that runs LIV.

Another released document revealed notes for Norman ahead of an apparent meeting with a potential sponsor, laying out the initial plans for what was then called “Project Wedge” or “the League.” It says LIV’s business model was put together by “over 200 industry experts for a period of 6 months,” including consulting firms McKinsey and Teneo. That document noted that LIV had sought a partnership with the PGA Tour early on and sought to “integrate a new series into the existing golf ecosystem as a dedicated event platform.”

The Tour rejected these advances and LIV Golf and the PGA Tour began fighting in court in August 2022. But as part of the contentious partnership in June, the two sides agreed to end their legal dispute.

On June 16 — four days before the case was formally dismissed — the Times filed a motion with the court to unseal all records related to the case, stating: “There is a significant and legitimate public interest in this proceeding and its “Important legal issues raised by the parties – which concern the public – and understanding the parties’ litigation conduct.” The Times ultimately narrowed its request.

Clout Public Affairs, a Washington-based firm that worked for the PGA Tour but was not involved in the litigation, was among those who objected to the Times’ motion. Clout also worked for a group of families of 9/11 victims protesting against LIV Golf and its ties to Saudi Arabia. In its court filing, the company said: “Clout employees have a reasonable fear of retaliation from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, LIV’s backer… given its track record of human rights abuses and retaliation against dissidents.” This information is sensitive and could provoke the kingdom .”

The batches released this week did not include Clout records.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2023/09/08/liv-golf-new-york-times-emails/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_homepage Unsealed emails detail Yasir Al-Rumayyan’s involvement in LIV Golf

Ian Walker

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