As the LIV Golf League prepares to start its second season in Mexico later this month, the circuit being financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is generating virtually no revenue, according to federal court documents.
The LIV Golf League’s attorneys made that admission in a motion filed with the U.S. District Court for Northern California on Monday. LIV Golf asked U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman to deny the PGA Tour’s motion for leave to add the Public Investment Fund and its governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, as plaintiffs in the Tour’s countersuit against LIV Golf, in which it alleges LIV Golf interfered with its contract with players.
On Monday, the PGA Tour’s attorneys requested a conference hearing with Freeman to discuss whether discovery deadlines and the January 2024 trial date should be pushed back because the Public Investment Fund and Al-Rumayyan have allegedly failed to comply with discovery and depositions.
Freeman has scheduled a Feb. 24 case management conference to hear the sides’ arguments.
“The Tour’s motion to amend should be denied because the amendment would be futile, would cause unfair prejudice, was unduly delayed, and is obviously intended to inappropriately delay the case and resolution of Plaintiffs’ antitrust claims,” LIV Golf’s attorneys wrote in Monday’s motion.
“Delay will equally harm LIV because the Tour continues its anticompetitive conduct while the litigation is pending. The Tour has damaged LIV’s brand, driven up its costs by hundreds of millions of dollars, and driven down revenues to virtually zero.”
Former LIV Golf president and COO Atul Khosla told ESPN in October that the Public Investment Fund spent about $784 million bankrolling the circuit’s first season in 2022, including employee salaries, build-outs at tournaments and production costs for broadcasting LIV events on social media and its official website.
Khosla, who resigned in December, said that total did not include guaranteed, multiyear contracts for players, which might be at least one-third of that. According to various published reports, LIV paid as much as $200 million for six-time major champion Phil Mickelson, at least $150 million for Dustin Johnson, more than $125 million for Bryson DeChambeau and at least $100 million for reigning Open Championship winner Cameron Smith. LIV Golf officials have declined to provide details of the players’ contracts.
LIV Golf’s attorneys wrote on Monday that the PGA Tour’s alleged antitrust behavior has jeopardized the careers of some of its players, including Matt Jones and Peter Uihlein, who are plaintiffs in the federal antitrust lawsuit, along with DeChambeau. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan suspended Jones, Uihlein and other members who played in LIV Golf tournaments without conflicting-event releases.
“The prejudice to Plaintiffs Jones and Uihlein from delay is clear: they risk being unable to earn a living in their chosen profession during the prime of their careers,” LIV Golf’s lawyers wrote. “Mr. Jones and Mr. Uihlein have no secure ability to pursue their profession in 2024. Some Player Plaintiffs are not under contract with LIV past 2023, and are banned from the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and other tours around the world. Player Plaintiffs are denied playing opportunities they had earned and need resolution on the enforceability of the Tour’s Regulations, suspensions, and conduct.
“And several other golfers in LIV and other professional and collegiate golfers who are considering playing in the Asian Tour or on LIV are making decisions about their future and need clarity from the Court. Plaintiffs need relief soon and certainly no later than the current January 2024 trial.”
On Jan. 19, LIV Golf announced that it had reached a multiyear U.S. broadcast television and streaming agreement with the CW network to air its live tournaments over its network and streaming app.
The financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. Sources told ESPN that it is a revenue-sharing arrangement and that LIV Golf won’t receive rights fees from the CW network and would continue to pay production costs, as it did during its inaugural season in 2022.
The second LIV Golf season is scheduled to tee off Feb. 24-26 at El Camaleon Golf Course in Mayakoba, Mexico. LIV Golf, which has 54-hole tournaments and 12 four-man teams competing in individual and team competitions, will stage 14 tournaments this season.
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