April 22, 2024


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How will PGA Tour’s Jay Monahan and Yasir Al-Rumayyan work together?

How will PGA Tour’s Jay Monahan and Yasir Al-Rumayyan work together?

After more than a year of high-stakes maneuvers and far-reaching accusations, Jay Monahan and Yasir Al-Rumayyan finally met in May, a blind date arranged in a Venice café or hotel.

Now the strangest of companions will try to reshape the future of professional golf and undo the damage caused by a year-long civil war they waged against each other.

The 53-year-old officials couldn’t be different: Monahan, US Commissioner for the PGA Tour Since 2017, Al-Rumayyan, a trusted confidant of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and overseer of his country’s massive Public Investment Fund.

that it This fund, claiming to be worth close to $700 billion, which catapulted her into a game of golf last Tuesday. It ended a complex shooting battle between the PGA’s American and European Tours and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour. It immediately solved the PGA Tour’s financial problems.

Now Al-Rumayyan will head this entity. Monahan will be its CEO. Among the many complex questions this raises is related to internal logistics. How will this unlikely duo manage–manage the game of golf, both on and off the course, and manage to get along?

“Money can change everything,” legendary golfer Gary Player said in an email. “And all we can do now is hope that the outcome going forward will be positive for everyone.”

Monahan has deep roots in New England and a background in sports marketing. His driving style is as calm as the golfing crowd waiting for the winning shot.

“I enjoy all forms of human interaction,” He told Golf Digest in 2017. “Talking to people, listening to them, and often observing them. Even unpleasant people, I enjoy discovering what makes them read. It’s kind of a requirement of the job I’m in now because the range of people is so broad, and their attitudes are so dynamic. Their needs and goals can be material. But it’s human interaction that gets us there.”

Al Rumayyan, a money-grubber with a deep passion for golf, is a stern test of Monahan’s people skills. Surely his “needs and goals” are material.

While Al-Rumayyan will retain only one seat out of 11 seats (now). PGA Tour Board of DirectorsHe and the Wealth Fund have the exclusive right to invest in the new entity. This means that they control the finances, and plan to pump out billions of dollars.

In his only public appearance since the merger was announced last week, A.J televised completion on CNBC As the two sat side by side, Al-Rumayyan said he would allow Monahan to lead the operation.

He noted that the “voting system” and the majority of the board of directors “will not be with us.”

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But Al-Rumayyan’s very existence — and the deal itself, for now only a framework that can take months to formalize — is a powerful reminder that money can trump all things.

“The Saudis are going to want to dominate this,” said James Dorsey, an associate senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “They don’t like to play second fiddle. And they think, not without reason, that money talks.”

What kind of takeover leader Al-Rumayyan will become is unclear. His portfolio in the Public Investment Fund is huge, and he heads dozens of state-owned companies, including oil giant Saudi Aramco and mining company Maaden. It pretty much allows the executive teams to run it as they see fit.

But the relationship with Newcastle United, the English soccer team, may provide the best clues to a game of golf.

The Public Investment Fund bought an 80 percent stake in Newcastle United in 2021. Fans of the English club immediately welcomed the change of ownership, as the prospect of success on the field outweighed tough questions. Thanks to the funds of the Public Investment Fund, provided by Al-Rumayyan, Newcastle rose to the top of the English Premier League.

At Newcastle he left the day-to-day decisions to others, although he quickly agreed the expenses of promoting talent and was not unseen.

He comes to matches sometimes. (Compare that to the absentee ownership of Manchester City by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, who Made the news on Saturday Going to the team’s Champions League final.) He kicked the ball around the team’s pitch and was photographed in the dressing room.

However, Al-Rumayyan is more passionate about golf. About LIV, his pet project, known as H.E., has had a huge crowd attendance. At last year’s LIV event in Bedminster, NJ, Al-Rumayyan Hobnobbed With Former President Donald J. Trumpcourse owner. For a time, Al-Rumayyan wore a “Make America Great Again” hat.

But most don’t expect him to be a public presence at golf or a familiar figure around cup celebrations. Part of it is his wallet. He has a lot of other business responsibilities.

“How much time should he devote?” Dorsey said. “This is a man at the head of an empire. He oversees a wide range of things. I think you’ll see a lot of his assistants and not a lot of them, at least once this settles in.”

Part of it is the Saudi culture. And according to Kristian Ulrichsen, a Middle East fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, he has to “walk a fine line,” given Prince Mohammed’s authoritarian leadership.

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“If you look very old, and you look like Mr. Saudi Arabia, bin Salman does not deal well with people who step on his toes,” Ulrichsen said. “But we also saw that Al-Rumayyan is perhaps the most trusted and competent member of his inner circle.”

Al-Rumayyan was a little-known banking executive in 2015, when King Abdullah died. Power has consolidated around Prince Mohammed, who is soon to launch Vision 2030, an ambitious transformation of Saudi Arabia and its reputation. Part of that involved building the Public Investment Fund as a diversified vehicle for global capital development, both financially and culturally.

Prince Mohammed, looking to expel an aging elite who he felt limited from the country’s ambitions — imprisoning and abusing hundreds of them — handed over responsibility for the fund to Al-Rumayyan.

The CIA said that the continuation of human rights violations and the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 on the orders of Prince Mohammed made the Saudis a global pariah.

But under Al-Rumayyan’s guidance, the investment fund has grown exponentially.

Investing in sports, in particular, has proven to be an effective reputational wash that some call sportswashing. And the culmination of this effort could be a takeover of golf, as announced the same week that Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken visits Prince Mohammed in Saudi Arabia.

“This was part of establishing Saudi Arabia on the world stage,” Ulrichsen said of the Saudi push into international sport. And in this case, it appears that Saudi Arabia is welcome back at the highest table in the United States, especially after what happened after 2018. This period of isolation is definitely over.”

For the Saudis, the golf deal is more of a global news event than a national one. Wednesday front page Al-Riyadiah News, the largest daily newspaper in the Kingdom, has been dominated by news of French footballer Karim Benzema’s transfer to Jeddah-based club Al-Ittihad, the latest award for the first Saudi championship, which has already attracted Cristiano Ronaldo, among others. The announcement of the golf amalgamation was nowhere in the newspaper for that day, and it only deserved a brief mention on page 11 on Thursday.

But Al-Rumayyan is on a solo mission to use golf for Saudi Arabia. It helped Establishes The Saudi Golf Federation and the Saudi Golf Company were established in 2019 to promote the game in the country.

One uncertainty is Monahan’s long-term role as CEO. Tax records obtained by ProPublica show that he was paid $14 million in 2021 salaries for his role as PGA Tour Commissioner. He spent most of 2022 and early 2023 trying to fend off life through indignities and lawsuits.

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This litigation would be withdrawn, saving illiquid PGA Tour funds while protecting Al Rumayyan and the wealth fund from filings and discovery.

Were they all games that can now be overlooked? Or might Al-Rumayyan work behind the scenes to find a leader more in line with his goals?

Monahan wants golf fans, sponsors and players to resist collective reversals in this new arrangement, which many have painted as more of a financial bargain than morality, and to contemplate where world golf could be in 10 years.

It likely depends on what Al-Rumayyan wants.

It could just be tweaks in payments, schedules and formats to lift a flabby, traditional establishment – the way they did Newcastle. Or it could be an overhaul. A possible comparison, without ties to PIF, is the way international cricket presented Twenty20 to face draw, multi-day competitions with something shorter, more lively and expendable, similar to what LIV attempted to do.

For someone like Blair, 87, a nine-time tournament winner from South Africa, the hope is for broad global growth, and not just on the PGA Tour.

“The women’s game and golfer’s weekend should not be forgotten with all this money pouring in,” he said. “Let the ladies make a better living. Use the money to make golf more accessible to the masses. Let us make it a point to share this new era with all who love our sport.”

At the center of all the odds, right now, lies the relationship between two men—an impossibly wealthy backer from Saudi Arabia and a tradition-rich sports executive from Massachusetts.

“He and I sat in Venice for about two hours, trying to understand each other,” Al-Rumayyan said. He talked about his aspirations, about his life. I did the same. Even my family was with me in Venice. We had lunch with a large group of people. Understanding and positive thinking is what really unites us in growing the game of golf. The passion that we have, both of us, is what really cemented this kind of agreement.”

Spring in Venice is a way to stir up that magic.

Skeptics might point out that Venice is a chain of islands and an easy place to lose your sense of direction. Pessimists may notice that it is sinking.

Ahmed Al-Omran Contribute to the preparation of reports.