PGA Tour Moves to Add Saudi Defendants in Countersuit Against LIV Over Monopolization of Pro Golf

On Tuesday, PGA Tour Inc. requested leave to amend its counterclaim in the suit initially brought by 11 golfers who left the PGA Tour to join the newly formed, Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf Inc. professional golf tour. The motion asks to include the Public Investment Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (PIF) and Yasir Othman Al Rumayyan as counter-defendants in view of recently produced evidence purportedly demonstrating that they exercise control over LIV and have participated in tortious interference with the Tour’s golfer contracts.

The dispute began in August 2022, when the professional golfers unsuccessfully sought to obtain a temporary restraining order against the PGA Tour based on alleged antitrust and contract violations. In particular, the players’ complaint alleged that, alarmed by the entry of LIV Golf, and opposed to its founding mission, PGA Tour ventured to harm the careers and livelihoods of professional golfers who joined LIV.

“The Tour has done so to crush nascent competition before it threatens the Tour’s monopoly,” the suit said.

Since then, eight golfers dismissed their claims against the PGA Tour,and LIV entered the case as a plaintiff. PGA Tour answered the complaint and leveled a counterclaim against LIV for intentionally interfering with its player contracts, specifically, by LIV inducing players to break their contracts through significant upfront cash payments and by making false representations.

The case has been proceeding through discovery since the initial and responsive pleadings were filed. Newly produced documents, this week’s motion say, confirm that PIF, which owns at least 93% of LIV and controls its board, and Al Rumayyan were instrumental in the aforementioned contractual interference.

As relevant to its amendment motion, the PGA Tour explains that founded in 1971, PIF is the sovereign wealth fund for Saudi Arabia with over half a trillion dollars of assets under management. In 2015, PIF was purportedly given a refreshed mandate to further the country’s “Vision 2030,” an effort to “diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy, alleviate its dependence on oil, and better integrate itself with the international economy.”

Amendment should be permitted by the Northern District of California court overseeing the suit because all relevant factors weigh in favor thereof, the PGA Tour argues. It says the plaintiffs will suffer no prejudice by addition of the new parties and that the action was prompted by recently produced evidence, including the Subscription and Shareholders’ Agreement that the PGA Tour saw for the first time in late December. The PGA Tour adds that there is no evidence of bad faith, and this is its first amendment.

The case is before Judge Beth Labson Freeman.

The player plaintiffs and LIV are represented by Quinn Emanuel and Gibson Dunn and the PGA Tour by Keker Van Nest and Skadden Arps.