Saudi officials added to PGA Tour’s countersuit against LIV Golf


The high-stakes legal feud between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf began as a courtroom tiff between the tour and a handful of players who signed lucrative contracts to jump to the Saudi-funded rival league.

LIV Golf was formally added to the lawsuit in late August, and by the time the PGA Tour countersued in September, most of those golfers, including Phil Mickelson, had left the suit. On Tuesday, a federal judge agreed to add the Saudi wealth fund that finances LIV Golf and the man who controls those purse strings, formally drawing the Saudi kingdom into the row.

The order by U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman comes on the heels of a magistrate judge’s decision to deny LIV Golf’s sovereign immunity claims and rule that the Saudis’ Public Investment Fund and its governor, Yasir al-Rumayyan, are subject to discovery in the case and must sit for depositions.

At the PGA Tour’s request, Freeman has formally added them to the lawsuit, ramping up the stakes and exposure for the Saudi officials.

In setback for LIV, court rules that Saudi officials are subject to discovery

The fund is expected to appeal the discovery order this week. The sides have been at odds for months over how responsive the fund and al-Rumayyan needed to be in the case.

According to court filings, LIV Golf waited until after a deadline to produce documents to turn over a “Subscription and Shareholders’ Agreement” to PGA Tour lawyers in December. Much of the details from that agreement are redacted in the filings, but the PGA Tour says the paperwork makes clear that the fund and al-Rumayyan were not passive investors in LIV Golf.

“To sum up, PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan recruited players; decided how much to pay them; assured them about their positions and about indemnification from suit by PIF; and controlled the conduct of this litigation undertaken by PIF’s lawyers,” the tour asserted in a filing.

While LIV Golf filed the antitrust suit in August saying the tour was intentionally trying to curtail competition, the PGA Tour says in its countersuit that LIV Golf committed “tortious interference” by encouraging golfers to violate terms of their existing tour contracts.

LIV Golf opposed the motion to add the fund and al-Rumayyan, saying in part that amending the tour’s counterclaim and adding new parties would delay the case.

Freeman, though, said in her ruling that “any delay LIV attributes to this amended pleading is not likely to outlast the delay caused by the subpoena dispute over PIF and [al-Rumayyan] discovery and LIV’s anticipated motion seeking review of [the discovery] order.”

There is a case management conference scheduled for Friday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The case isn’t scheduled to go to trial until January, though the PGA Tour has asked the judge to reconsider the timeline.

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