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PGA board member resigns over 'serious concerns' on LIV deal – report

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Randall Stephenson, a former AT&T chief executive, reportedly has resigned his PGA Tour Policy Board position over “serious concerns” about the tour’s controversial deal with LIV Golf‘s Saudi backers.

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that it had obtained a copy of his resignation letter dated Saturday with immediate effect.

The 10-member policy board must approve the deal announced last month by PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan and Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan for it to be finalized.

In his letter, according to the report, Stephenson, a board member since 2012, said the framework agreement of the deal “is not one that I can objectively evaluate or in good conscience support, particularly in light of the US intelligence report concerning Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.”

Post journalist Khashoggi’s death in 2018 was linked to Saudi agents and was among the human rights issues that have concerned critics of the Saudi-backed upstart golf series, which used record prize money deals to lure top PGA Tour players since its first event 13 months ago.

The merger deal came as a shock to most players after the PGA Tour had banned players who left for LIV from playing and Monahan had appealed to loyalty to keep some players from jumping.

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Stephenson said he planned to resign last month but delayed the move after Monahan was taking leave to deal with unspecified medical issues.

The PGA Tour announced Friday that Monahan would return to his duties on July 17, after a planned Tuesday hearing by US lawmakers into the PGA-LIV deal where two PGA Tour officials will appear.

“I joined this board 12 years ago to serve the best players in the world and to expand the virtues of sportsmanship instilled through the game of golf,” Stephenson wrote in the letter.

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“I hope, as this board moves forward, it will comprehensively rethink its governance model and keep its options open to evaluate alternative sources of capital beyond the current framework agreement.”

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will hear from Jimmy Dunne, a policy board member who helped negotiate terms of the deal, and Ron Price, the PGA Tour chief operating officer handling duties in Monahan’s absence.

LIV Golf and the PGA Tour dropped lawsuits against each other that were set for May 2024 trials and could have revealed many financial details about the PIF and tour.

The deal created a for-profit entity to oversee commercial interests for the PGA Tour, LIV Golf and the DP World Tour.

Stephenson said he was concerned that the deal “came to fruition without board oversight.”

The Policy board includes five players, among them four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and US standout Patrick Cantlay.

AFP

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