Feb 7, 2023
LIV Says PGA Bid to Add Saudi Fund to Antitrust Fight ‘Improper’
Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf claims PGA Tour Inc. has an “improper motive” for seeking to drag the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund into an antitrust court fight: delaying a trial set for early next year.
Late Monday, LIV asked a federal judge in California to deny PGA’s request in late January to expand the clash to include the fund and its top official.
PGA knows that both the Public Investment Fund and its governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, are subject to sovereign immunity and other defenses “that cannot be quickly resolved,” LIV said in a court filing.
The legacy US tour organizer intends to use issues over counterclaims it filed in LIV’s antitrust suit filed last year “to delay trial on plaintiffs’ antitrust claims indefinitely,” LIV said. “That is the tail wagging the dog.”
Read More: PGA Goes After Saudi Fund and Its Chief as LIV Feud Widens
“PIF wants to pursue economic opportunities in the United States, use them to rehabilitate the Saudi public image, and assert claims in United States courts, while at the same time seeking to refuse to participate in our legal process,” said Elliot Peters, a lawyer representing PGA. “It is not consistent with US law. It is unfair. And it won’t work.”
The two tours are awaiting a ruling by a US magistrate judge on an earlier request by PGA to compel PIF and Al-Rumayyan to testify and produce documents in its counterclaims accusing LIV of unfair competition for offering players lucrative deals to break their PGA contracts.
Peters alleged at a January hearing that PIF and its chief control LIV, negotiate player contracts and authorized the antitrust suit. The US Tour’s latest request to amend its counterclaims so it can widen its fight “makes the same allegations,” LIV said in the filing, adding that its attorneys dispute the claims.
The fight between the two tours began when 11 professional golfers, including Phil Mickelson, Talor Gooch and Matt Jones, sued the PGA in August for suspending them after they signed on with LIV. LIV joined the suit a month later, prompting Mickelson, Gooch and others to withdraw from the suit.
PGA then countersued, claiming LIV’s alleged interference with PGA players’ contracts harmed its brand and reputation.
LIV claims PGA is a monopolist seeking to sabotage a competing player in the professional golf industry.
The case is Jones v. PGA Tour Inc., 22-cv-04486, US District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).
(Updates with PGA attorney’s comment)
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