PGA Tour, LIV Golf working to extend merger deadline into 2024

A PGA TOUR logo is seen after play was suspended due to severe storms during the third round of THE PLAYERS Championship held at THE PLAYERS Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass on May 14, 2011 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

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PGA Tour and LIV Golf are working to extend their proposed merger deadline, which was originally set at Dec. 31, Commissioner Jay Monahan told players in a memo on Sunday.

“While we had initially set a deadline of December 31, 2023, to reach an agreement, we are working to extend our negotiations into next year based on the progress we have made to date,” according to the memo obtained by CNBC.

The delay is the latest update in a long and tumultuous saga between the PGA Tour and Saudi Public Investment Fund-backed LIV Golf that has divided players and could dramatically change professional golf if the merger is completed.

Monahan told players the tour’s goal for 2024 is to reach agreements with Strategic Sports Group, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and DP World Tour, bringing them on board as minority co-investors in PGA Tour Enterprises.

The PGA Tour recently announced it was in the final round of negotiations with a coalition of U.S. investors called Strategic Sports Group and led by Fenway Sports Group. Monahan said the parties have made “meaningful progress” and that the tour has provided SSG with the due diligence information it requested.

“These partnerships will allow us to unify, innovate and invest in the game for the benefit of players, fans and sponsors,” he said.

PGA Tour and LIV are expected to make a formal decision on the combination ahead of the Masters tournament in April, according to The Telegraph, which first reported the extension.

The competing golf leagues agreed in June to combine commercial operations, shocking the global golf community and raising questions around competition and human rights considerations. Under the structure of the agreement, PGA Tour would hold a permanent controlling interest in the new entity’s board of directors.

If the proposed merger is completed, PIF is prepared to invest $1 billion into the new commercial business. The agreement also includes the DP World Tour, also known as the PGA European Tour.

The deal is subject to likely antitrust scrutiny from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department.

Before the agreement, PGA Tour and LIV were locked in heated litigation as LIV Golf lured Tour players away, offering big contracts. LIV Golf most recently signed world No. 3 player Jon Rahm to a contract worth a reported $300 million.

Last month, the Tour told players it would begin offering direct equity ownership in the new company after it reaches a deal with investors.

In late November, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan told Andrew Ross Sorkin at the DealBook Summit that he was meeting with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, chairman of LIV Golf and PIF governor, to continue discussions.

“When this gets finalized, the PGA Tour is going to be in a position where the athletes are owners in their sport and you’ve got not only the PIF, but you’ve likely got another co-investor with significant experience in business, in sport and [in] brand that’s going to help take the PGA Tour to another level,” Monahan said at the time.

Correction: The story has been updated to accurately reflect the name of Jay Monahan, which was misspelled due to an editing error.

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