A California court on Wednesday ordered the head of the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund to appear in court as part of a lawsuit brought by the PGA Tour against its Saudi-bankrolled rival, LIV Golf, dragging the powerful Saudi entity into court even as lawyers representing the fund argue its foreign political status should make it exempt from typical court proceedings.
Yasir bin Othman Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, has 21 days to respond to the summons or the San Francisco federal court will issue a judgment by default against him, likely incurring a financial penalty.
The summons comes a week after a judge approved the PGA Tour’s request to include Al-Rumayyan and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund as defendants in its lawsuit against LIV, a suit filed in response to LIV’s ongoing lawsuit against the tour for allegedly breaking federal antitrust laws in its attempt to quash LIV in its inaugural 2022 season.
Lawyers representing the PGA Tour proposed the summons against Al-Rumayyan Wednesday, shortly before lawyers for the Saudi delegation filed a motion to stay orders requiring the Public Investment Fund and Al-Rumayyan to comply with the court’s requests, claiming the court discovery process would “violate Saudi law.”
LIV burst onto the golf scene in 2022, with billions of dollars from the Saudi investment fund helping it sign away some of the PGA Tour’s best-known golfers. The power struggle between the PGA Tour and LIV was messy: The established tour barred its members from playing in LIV events, resulting in the suspension of some of its winningest golfers, bans which affected players alleged violated federal law as it sought to maintain its stranglehold on professional golf. Hanging over LIV’s debut, which featured several generally popular on-course changes such as higher purses and team play, PGA Tour-backed accusations that LIV of being little more than a “sportswashing” vehicle for the Saudi government to improve its image internationally,
More than $500 billion. That’s how much the Public Investment Fund has in assets under management, according to its 2021 annual report.
LIV Golf’s first tournament of 2023 last weekend marked its American television debut on the CW. The LIV broadcast averaged 289,000 viewers on Saturday and Sunday, a fraction of the audience for the PGA Tour’s concurrent event, though Perry Sook, CEO of CW parent company Nexstar, said he was “thrilled” with the size of the audience.
Saudi Arabia’s PIF Calls Judge’s Order ‘Infringement’ of Sovereignty (Front Office Sports)