LIV Golf’s potential PGA merger has been plunged into further doubt after Tom Werner, chairman of Fenway Sports Group, confirmed talks with the Tour amid claims his organization have place ‘a monitor bid’ to usurp the Saudi-backed circuit.
Werner, who is also chairman of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool, confirmed FSG’s talks with the tour in an interview with CNBC, where he was sat next to Rory McIlroy at Fenway Park.
As it stands, only a framework agreement between Saudi-backed LIV and the PGA are in place and last week, golf reporter Alan Shipnuck claimed the deal is ‘falling apart’ and that FSG had made a move.
Werner did not offer up any specifics but said: ‘We confirm that we’ve had conversations.’
Shipnuck, author of the LIV and let die book, said last week of the potential LIV and PGA collaboration: ‘A huge problem from day one was the messaging of the “merger.” The press release should have said ‘Lawsuits dropped, we’ll figure out the rest later.’
Tom Werner spoke out on Fenway Sports Group’s links to backing a PGA Tour merger
Alan Shipnuck claimed last week that FSG have entered the race to partner with the PGA Tour
‘There’s nothing binding in the framework agreement; it’s aspirational. The Tour’s committed to a new biz model but not the PIF $.’
He continued: ‘From talking to folks on Wall St. and in Silicon Valley who are close to the deal, the framework agreement is falling apart. Fenway Sports Group has put in a monster bid to usurp the PIF. It looks increasingly likely we go back to LIV vs. the Tour.’
While Werner, 73, didn’t offer any further information he did underline that ‘the players will decide where the tour goes.’
He was effusive in his praise for McIlroy, who is launching his indoor competition ‘The Golf League’ in January – with Werner investing in a Boston-based team.
‘We’re being partnered with Rory who is a transcendent figure in golf, in an idea that I think will be resonant not just with traditional golfers but a lot of new golfers,’ Werner said.
McIlroy has been, by far the most outspoken critic of LIV, speaking openly of his ‘hatred’ of the Saudi-backed breakaway circuit.
When shock news of the bombshell merger surfaced in June, McIlroy underlined his disdain for LIV but admitted that the tours working together could be a positive.
‘Mixed emotions,’ McIlroy said. ‘I still hate LIV. Like, I hate LIV. I hope it goes away and I would fully expect that it does.
‘I look 10 years down the line, I think ultimately this is going to be good for the game of professional golf. It unifies it and it secures its financial future.’
As well as owning the Red Sox and English soccer team Liverpool – two of the most iconic teams in sport across the globe – FSG also owns NHL team Pittsburgh Penguins.
LIV GOLF TIMELINE
- June 9, 2022: LIV Golf held its inaugural event in England, prompting the PGA Tour to suspend all members who competed in the rival event.
- August of 2022: Phil Mickelson and 10 other LIV Golfers filed an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour in response to their suspensions. The plaintiffs accused the PGA of using an unlawful monopoly to stifle trade.
- October of 2022: The PGA files its countersuit against the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which funds LIV Golf. PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan is named in the lawsuit.
- January of 2023: The PGA files a motion, claiming the PIF interfered with its contracts by luring players to join the upstart league.
- June of 2023: LIV Golf and the PGA Tour decide to merge, bringing an end to their competing lawsuits.