Fenway-Led PGA Tour Investment in Works for Domestic Rights – Sportico.com
Illustration by Lorenzo Gordon
A consortium led by the owners of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC is set to begin executing its investment in the PGA Tour as early as next week, according to multiple people familiar with the negotiations.
The investors, led by Fenway Sports Group and consisting of a number of prominent U.S. sports owners, have been in talks with the PGA Tour for months on helping form a new for-profit entity, called PGA Tour Enterprises, which would house the tour’s commercial rights. The total raised for the new entity will be less than the $3+ billion previously reported, and will cover just the tour’s domestic rights, said the people, who were granted anonymity because the details are private.
This deal is happening apart from the ongoing merger talks between the PGA Tour, main European tour and Saudi-backed LIV Golf. A previous deadline for those talks was extended at the end of 2023, and it remains unclear if an agreement will be reached.
That said, adding billions in new capital could provide the PGA Tour with leverage during those merger negotiations. It could also lay the groundwork for the PGA Tour to remain on its own, eschewing a merger with a wealthier upstart that has polarized fans, divided players and thrown the entire sport into conflict.
When asked about the timing and the investment size, a representative for the PGA Tour said the information was “incorrect” but declined to elaborate. A representative for Fenway Sports Group declined to comment. Sportico also reached out to a number of the other investors, without success.
Known as the Strategic Sports Group, the consortium of investors carries plenty of financial and sports heft. When it began talks with the Tour, it included multibillionaire hedge fund manager and Mets owner Steven Cohen; Home Depot co-founder and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank; billionaire Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts; Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio; FSG owner John Henry; FSG chairman Tom Werner; RedBird Capital managing partner Gerry Cardinale; Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck; former Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry; as well as a fund backed by the Bezos family. It’s unclear if every one of those backers will be part of the deal when it closes.
The Strategic Sports Group was chosen in December to enter exclusive talks on an investment into the PGA Tour. There were other suitors—including Endeavor, which offered to make a capital investment as part of a wider multiyear deal with the PGA Tour.
If the broader PGA-LIV-DP World Tour deal were to happen, the PGA Tour would remain in control of the for-profit entity, and the Strategic Sports Group would be a minority owner. That would likely also be true if the broader merger does not happen.
The players will also have equity. Last November, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan sent a memo to players telling them that they will be offered direct ownership in PGA Tour Enterprises, according to ESPN. That an important concession, because LIV Golf was able to disrupt the sport largely because it offered compensation significantly higher that what many stars were making via traditional circuits. The PGA Tour in kind responded by increasing the amount it gave to golfers.