PGA Tour policy board member resigns over LIV merger

Randall Stephenson, a member of the PGA Tour’s policy board, has resigned from his position with the golfing organization due to his concerns with the tour’s pending merger with Saudi-backed rival LIV Golf. 

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that Stephenson, a former chief executive at AT&T, sent his resignation letter to his fellow board members. 

In his letter, Stephenson noted his “serious concerns” with the tour’s deal, noting that the framework of the deal “is not one that I can objectively evaluate or in good conscience support, particularly in light of the U.S. intelligence report concerning Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.”

Stephenson noted the killing of Washington Post journalist and Saudi government opponent Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, which U.S. intelligence has said that Saudi Arabia played a role in. 

Stephenson also said he intended to step down from his position weeks earlier, but delayed that decision after hearing the news of league commissioner Jay Monahan taking leave due to health issues.

Monahan, who has been the tour’s commissioner since January 2017, informed golfers that he’ll return to his post on July 17, according to the Post. 

“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 his letter. “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.”

Stephenson’s resignation comes days before the PGA Tour is scheduled to testify before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on Tuesday, which is investigating the merger between the tour and LIV, the Post reported. 

The PGA Tour announced last month that they have agreed to merge with LIV Golf to create one larger golf organization. 

The agreement will combine both golfing tours’ commercial businesses into one for-profit yet-to-be-named entity and the DP World Tour, also known as the European PGA Tour, will also be part of the merger. 

The agreement also ends a year-long antitrust litigation between the two golfing leagues. The PGA Tour, founded in 1929, previously suspended a list of prominent golfers such as Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, and Bryson DeChambeau for their decision to jump ship to the up-start league. 

The committee, chaired by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), will question Ron Price, the tour’s chief operating officer, and Jimmy Dunne, a member of the PGA’s policy board. Dunne played a key role in brokering the deal with LIV, the Post reported.

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