PGA Tour, LIV Golf merger: Justice Department to investigate

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PGA TOUR logo is seen during the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines South on January 29, 2021 in San Diego, California.

Ben Jared | Pga Tour | Getty Images

The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division has informed the PGA Tour it will review the organization’s proposed merger with Saudi-funded LIV Golf, a source told NBC News on Thursday.

The Justice Department and LIV Golf declined to comment. CNBC has reached out to the PGA Tour.

The announcement of the deal last week immediately triggered antitrust concerns.

This week, Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Ron Wyden and Oregon urged the DOJ to open a probe into the agreement. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., also opened an investigation into the deal. Wyden launched his own investigation Thursday.

The PGA Tour’s once-adversarial relationship with LIV was already under scrutiny by the DOJ, which last year started investigating whether the PGA Tour had engaged in anticompetitive behavior.

LIV, which is backed by the so-called Public Investment Fund controlled by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, divided the pro golf world when it emerged as a rival to the PGA Tour.

The upstart league’s links to the kingdom, with its sordid record on human rights, immediately triggered a swarm of controversy. But with the help of a reported $2 billion investment from the crown prince’s fund, LIV dangled massive prizes and perks and managed to lure high-profile golfers to play in its tournaments.

Former President Donald Trump hosted a LIV tournament at his New Jersey golf club last summer, stoking outrage from the kingdom’s critics — including families and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The PGA Tour and LIV Golf had locked horns in and out of court, and PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has openly criticized the rival league, making the announcement of their proposed merger all the more surprising. The announcement last week noted the merger would prompt a mutual end to all pending litigation.

If the merger goes through, the two entities will combine their businesses and rights into a new for-profit company. The PGA Tour policy board will have to approve the agreement, Monahan told players in a memo.

The PGA Tour revealed Tuesday that Monahan is currently recovering from an unspecified medical matter and is taking a leave of absence.

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