Golf

Saudi-backed LIV Golf, PGA Tour file joint motion to dismiss antitrust lawsuits

Saudi-backed LIV Golf and the PGA Tour filed a motion late Friday to dismiss their antitrust lawsuit and countersuits, ending more than 10 months and enormous legal fees in a bitter dispute that turned into a business agreement.

Move comes 10 days after their surprise merger

Two men walk alongside each other on a golf course.
Along with ending the antitrust complaints against each other, the motion filed by LIV Golf and the PGA Tour asks for dismissal of an appeal involving whether Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund and its governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, right, would have to provide testimony. (Seth Wenig/The Associated Press)

Saudi-backed LIV Golf and the PGA Tour filed a motion late Friday to dismiss their antitrust lawsuit and countersuits, ending more than 10 months and enormous legal fees in a bitter dispute that turned into a business agreement.

The filing in a northern California federal court was more procedural than a surprise.

It was a big part of the stunning June 6 agreement in which the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, the PGA Tour and the European tour became partners in a new for-profit company for commercial businesses.

The PGA Tour sent a notice to players, which was obtained by The Associated Press, that said, "Pursuant to the Framework Agreement announced last week, documents have now been filed with the court bringing a formal end to all pending litigation between the PGA Tour, PIF and LIV Golf."

The Wall Street Journal has reported that tour executives told the staff legal fees were closing in on $50 million US. As part of the motion, all sides are responsible for their legal fees.

Along with ending the antitrust complaints against each other, the motion asks for dismissal of an appeal involving whether the PIF and its governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, would have to provide testimony.

The PIF and Al-Rumayyan were trying to claim an exemption from the Foreign Service Immunity Act. A federal magistrate had ruled they were not exempt because of the PIF's involvement in the commercial enterprise of LIV Golf.

All requests were to dismiss with prejudice, meaning neither side's lawsuit can be reopened.

WATCH | PGA-LIV Golf merger, explained:

The PGA/LIV Golf merger, explained | About That

11 months ago
Duration 8:08
The merging of the PGA Tour and its rival, LIV Golf — a Saudi-backed startup that lured big golfers with the promise of massive payouts — has upended the sports world. Andrew Chang breaks down how the unlikely merger came to be, and the accusations of 'sportswashing.'

Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau were among 11 players who sued the PGA Tour in early August when they were suspended for defecting to LIV Golf. The rival league paid signing fees of $100 million or more, in addition to the $25 million in prize money for 48-man fields with guaranteed money at every tournament.

The lawsuit claimed the PGA Tour has used monopoly power to try to squash competition. The PGA Tour won an early court decision when a federal judge denied a temporary restraining order that would have let three LIV Golf players to compete in the tour's postseason.

LIV Golf joined the lawsuit and eventually all 11 players pulled out of the lawsuit.

The PGA Tour filed a countersuit in September accusing LIV of "tortious interference" by inducing top players to breach contracts by claiming the tour could not enforce its rules.

Any jury trial was not expected until the middle of 2024 at the earliest as both sides wrangled over discovery issues.

But the case is not done yet. The New York Times earlier on Friday filed a motion to intervene, asking the court to unseal documents. The Times says the public's right to the information outweighs the tour and LIV Golf's claims certain documents could cause "competitive harm."

That request is to be heard on Aug. 3.

Also, the Justice Department has begun to examine the agreement between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf's Saudi backers to determine whether it violates federal antitrust statutes. The agreement contained few details on how the new company will operate and what becomes of LIV Golf, which is in its second season.

WATCH | Surprise merger ends golf feud:

Golf feud ends as PGA Tour, LIV Golf announce surprise merger

12 months ago
Duration 2:06
The golf world is being upended again as the PGA Tour and its European counterpart, the DP World Tour, announced plans to merge with rival, LIV Golf — the Saudi-backed upstart that poached top players like Phil Mickelson and Greg Norman with the promise of massive paycheques.

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