The Saudi fund, for its part, has made clear that it will continue to compete with the PGA Tour through LIV Golf if there is no alliance. In December, the Saudi-backed tour poached Jon Rahm, the world’s third-ranked player.
The tentative agreement with the U.S. investors is far less likely to draw fire from clubhouses and Congress than the earth-shattering one the PGA Tour struck in June to combine forces with the Saudis. That deal, following months of bitter rivalry, drew criticism over Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses. The Saudi deal also lacked significant details, almost immediately setting off questions over its durability.
Among the U.S. investors joining Fenway Group are some of the most well-known names in sports and finance: Marc Lasry, founder of the hedge fund Avenue Capital and a former owner of the Milwaukee Bucks; Tom Ricketts, chairman of the Chicago Cubs; Steven Cohen, the New York Mets owner via his family office, the Cohen Group; and Gerald Cardinale, founder of the investment firm RedBird Capital Partners.
For them, the investment is partly a bet on renewed enthusiasm for live sports driven by big technology that has led to deal-making, from tennis to cricket. Investors have long believed they could run the PGA Tour more efficiently.
The negotiations featured an unorthodox challenge: Because the PGA Tour has historically been a nonprofit entity, it has not had a traditional ownership structure.