Donald Trump’s ties to LIV may fuel greater antitrust scrutiny over PGA merger 

Some golf fans are hailing Donald Trump as a winner of the LIV Golf and PGA Tour merger, but the former president’s ties to the Saudi-backed league could hurt the deal’s chances of winning approval, On The Money has learned. 

The Justice Department had already been investigating the PGA Tour over its dispute with LIV before Tuesday’s stunning deal ended the nearly year-long legal fight.

LIV had accused the PGA of running an “illegal monopoly,” and the new for-profit commercial venture – which also includes the European-based DP World Tour  – doesn’t address any of those concerns, according to multiple antitrust experts. 

“This deal ends competition between organizations – that’s what merger laws are all about preventing,” a former antitrust official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said. “Nothing was done ahead of time to make regulators comfortable. This is a very ill-thought out deal and they will be tied up for months with litigation.”  

Dustin Johnson, from left, Scottie Scheffler and Donald Trump
Dustin Johnson, from left, Scottie Scheffler and Donald Trump

The final details of the agreement are expected by the end of the year, but the deal will still have to gain approval from federal regulators who have the power to block it. 

Trump’s ties to LIV – having hosted events at his golf clubs – could further motivate Biden Administration officials to try to scuttle the merger, another source said.  

“It is certainly going to make Biden’s FTC and DOJ scrutinize the deal… especially because of the Trump family’s involvement,” a source told On The Money. “The fact these LIV tournaments have been at Trump’s clubs make him a relevant figure since he’s paid for this.”

It’s not known how much money the Saudi sovereign wealth fund that backs LIV has splashed on the Republican frontrunner in the 2024 presidential election.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF) has spent $2 billion in the past two years to launch LIV, luring away some of the world’s best players with eye-popping financial windfalls. The tour even reportedly offered Tiger Woods between $700 million and $800 million to join but he refused.

PIF will take a 20% stake in the as-yet-named new entity, The Post previously reported, and no antitrust lawyers were involved in the PGA-LIV discussions, sources told Bloomberg. 

“I doubt there is a magic bullet because LIV didn’t have outside counsel before the deal was announced, so unlikely there was any real antitrust vetting,” an FTC insider said.

Not only are there significant antitrust concerns, the fact that Saudi money is involved means there will likely be CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) concerns, the source added.. 

CFIUS, which has authority to examine any deal that could allow a foreign entity to control an American business, will likely review the transactions, insiders said.

“This deal is a violation of the essence of competition,” the source adds. “On top of that this is the most aggressive Antitrust Division in the History of the Department of Justice.” 

“They wouldn’t let Baskins merge with Robbins today,” another source joked.

The relationship between LIV and Trump extends beyond just golf. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner received a $2 billion investment from PIF.

Trump cheered the merger on his social media platform Truth Social, posting: “Great news from LIV golf. A big, beautiful, and glamorous deal for the wonderful world of golf. Congrats to all!!!”

He had predicted last year that the heated rivals would merge. 

“All of those golfers that remain ‘loyal’ to the very disloyal PGA, in all of its different forms, will pay a big price when the inevitable MERGER with LIV comes…” Trump wrote on Truth Social. 

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𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗱𝗶𝘁𝘀, 𝗖𝗼𝗽𝘆𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 & 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘆:
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