The 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 notified the PGA Tour that it will review the organization the proposed merger with LIV Golf funded by Saudi Arabia, a source told NBC News on Thursday.
The Department of Justice and LIV Golf declined to comment.
In a statement to CNBC, the PGA Tour said: “We are confident that once all stakeholders learn more about how the PGA TOUR will conduct this new venture, they will understand how it benefits our players, fans and the sport while protecting an American institution. from golf.”
A source familiar with the situation said any Justice Department interest would be an extension of an already existing investigation and it would not be unusual for US antitrust authorities to review a transaction of this profile. The source added that the review did not indicate that the transaction violated antitrust laws.
The Justice Department was already investigating professional golf in light of the LIV lawsuit.
The announcement of the deal last week immediately raised antitrust concerns.
This week, Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Ron Wyden of Oregon urged the Justice Department to open the probe to the agreement. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., also launched an investigation into the transaction. Wyden started his own investigation Thursday.
The PGA Tour’s once-hostile relationship with LIV has already come under scrutiny from federal prosecutors, who last year began investigating whether the PGA Tour engaged in anti-competitive behavior.
LIV, which is backed by a so-called public investment fund controlled by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, divided the professional golf world when it emerged as a rival to the PGA Tour.
The initial league connection with the kingdom with his embarrassing record on human rights, caused a swarm of controversy. But with the help of reported $2 billion investment LIV hung from the crown prince’s fund massive prices and pleasures and managed to entice high profile golfers play in his tournaments.
Former president Donald Trump hosted the LIV tournament at his golf club in New Jersey last summer, sparking outrage from the kingdom’s critics – including families and survivors terrorist attacks of September 11.
The PGA Tour and LIV Golf had their corners locked in and beyond courtand PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has openly criticized rival league, making the announcement of their proposed merger all the more surprising. Last week’s announcement noted that the merger would result in a mutual settlement of 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’s policy committee will have to approve the deal, Monahan he told the players in a note.
The PGA Tour revealed on Tuesday that Monahan is currently convalescent for an unspecified health issue and is taking leave.