Member of PGA Tour Policy Board Resigns, Claims LIV Golf Merger

member of pga tour policy board resigns claims liv golf merger
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Randall Stephenson, a member of the PGA Tour’s policy board and former AT&T chief executive, has resigned, claiming it was due to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf merger.

In his resignation letter shared by the Washington Post on Sunday, Stephenson cited “serious concerns” with the LIV merger, adding that 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.”

member of pga tour policy board resigns claims liv golf merger

AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson provides an overview of developments in the AT&T and Time Warner merger on November 20, 2017 in New York City. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)

Jamal Khashoggi was a Washington Post columnist and political activist, a former member and staunch defender of the international Islamist organization called the Muslim Brotherhood, and an outspoken critic of the Saudi monarchy. He was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, in October 2018 by a team of Saudi agents. The Saudi government characterizes the killing as a rogue operation.

A Saudi court handed down death sentences for five of the accused in December 2019. Still, critics say the trial was a whitewash that let the most important players off the hook, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who his detractors charge with ordering the Khashoggi killing. In April 2022, a Turkish court halted the trial of 26 Saudi suspects in the murder and instead transferred the proceedings to Saudi Arabia, a move denounced by Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, as an effort to bury the investigation.

member of pga tour policy board resigns claims liv golf merger

Members of the activist group Code Pink occupy U.S. Sen. Jack Reed’s office to protest U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia Oct. 22 in the wake of the death of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. (Kevin Dietsch/UPI)

Stephenson said that he would have stepped down earlier if not for the league commissioner, Jay Monahan, taking a leave of absence due to health issues.

“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. “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.”

member of pga tour policy board resigns claims liv golf merger

PGA Tour logo (Ben Jared/PGA Tour via Getty Images)

While Stephenson claims that the LIV merger spurred his resignation, New York Times noted that “two people familiar with his thinking” said that he had “already been planning to retire from the board.”

“In fact, he had already lately taken to attending most board meetings via videoconference, save for last month’s meeting in Michigan,” the Times noted.

member of pga tour policy board resigns claims liv golf merger

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan speaks during a news conference before the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands, June 22, 2022, in Cromwell, Connecticut. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The merger between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour shocked the world last month, especially considering how much the two were at odds, with the PGA once referring to the LIV as “blood money.” In response to the controversy, Monahan went as far as to blame Congress for the merger, charging that the U.S. has too deep of financial ties with the Saudi government.

“During this intense battle, we met with several members of Congress and policy experts to discuss the PIF’s attempt to take over the game of golf in the United States, and suggested ways that Congress could support us in these efforts,” Monahan wrote in a letter to Congress. “While we are grateful for the written declarations of support we received from certain members, we were largely left on our own to fend off the attacks, ostensibly due to the United States’ complex geopolitical alliance with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

member of pga tour policy board resigns claims liv golf merger

In this photo released by Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, greets President Joe Biden, with a fist bump after his arrival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Friday, July 15, 2022. (Saudi Press Agency via AP)

Acknowledging that the legal battle could have continued for years, Monahan said it would lead to “another decade of expensive and distracting litigation and the PGA Tour’s long-term existence under threat.”

“We believe that we did everything we could possibly do to defend what we stand for, including spending tens of millions of dollars to defend ourselves from litigation instigated by LIV Golf — significant funds diverted away from our core mission to benefit our players and generate charity,” Monahan added.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has opened an investigation into the merger, while Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) have called upon the Justice Department to open an anti-trust investigation.

Paul Roland Bois joined Breitbart News in 2021. He also directed the award-winning feature film, EXEMPLUM, which can be viewed for FREE on YouTube or Tubi. A high-quality, ad-free stream can also be purchased on Google Play or Vimeo on Demand. Follow him on Twitter @prolandfilms or Instagram @prolandfilms.

Authored by Paul Bois via Breitbart July 10th 2023