The PGA Tour has confirmed a historic investment deal with Strategic Sports Group, a consortium of American sports team owners, believed to be worth in the region of $3bn (£2.4bn).
The agreement will see the consortium invest in PGA Tour Enterprises, the new, for-profit entity created when the PGA Tour announced it would consider outside investment last year. The new entity is now said to be valued at roughly $12bn (£9.45bn) in the wake of this investment.
The deal will see $1.5bn invested immediately into the tour, with around $900m ringfenced for an equity programme which will see the top 180 players become shareholders in the new company. The majority of the equity shares will be siphoned off to the top 36 players as a reward for turning down offers from the Saudi-backed LIV.
Crucially, the deal is separate from ongoing negotiations between the tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund which will see more money pumped into PGA Tour Enterprises. Discussions between the PGA Tour and PIF, which bankrolls LIV Golf, remain ongoing after the previous deadline was extended at the end of 2023. It had been hoped that a deal, which would see the PIF become co-investors in PGA Tour Enterprises, would be concluded prior to the Masters in April.
Strategic Sports Group entered into final negotiations in December last year, beating a bid from Endeavour – the majority owner of the UFC and WWE – after extensive discussions with the PGA Tour policy board.
The consortium is being led by Fenway Sports Group, which owns Premier League side Liverpool and MLB team Boston Red Sox. It also features prominent American sports owners such as the New York Mets’ Steve Cohen and the Atlanta Falcons’ Arthur Blank.
There will be hope that this first deal can be the beginning of the end for golf’s bitter civil war which has divided men’s professional game since LIV’s launch in 2022. The Saudi-backed circuit recruited several big names with huge sign-on fees, such as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, and splintered the men’s professional game as a result.
On 6 June last year, the PGA Tour and the PIF announced a shock framework agreement that would see both rival tours merge but progress has been slow since then, in part due to regulatory concerns from the US Department of Justice. In the meantime, LIV has continued to prise away the PGA Tour’s top talent, with reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm and European Ryder Cup star Tyrrell Hatton the latest to jump ship ahead of LIV’s third season.
Any such deal may allow LIV’s players to return to PGA Tour competition, although there are suggestions that the initial deal with the PIF may not include the Saudi-backed circuit.