In the ongoing battle between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, Endeavor is siding with the sport’s legacy tours. Endeavor president Mark Shapiro said his company will not do business with the Saudi-backed upstart—without exception.
“I’ll just tell you unequivocally, we won’t work with them,” Shapiro said in an interview.
The stance positions Endeavor (NYSE:EDR) as an important corporate ally of the existing golf establishment, which is relying on loyalty from players, courses, tournaments, media companies and sponsors to help preserve its business in the face of a multibillion-dollar challenge. While some golfers represented by Ari Emanuel’s company may ultimately choose to play for LIV, Endeavor as a business will not work with or for the new tour.
LIV Golf is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which has a separate history with Endeavor. PIF invested $400 million in the sports and entertainment giant in early 2018, but the company returned the money and cut ties with the Saudi kingdom a year later, following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Endeavor’s stance on LIV is a strong statement of loyalty to the company’s existing golf partners. It has expansive relationships across the PGA Tour, the DP World Tour (previously the European tour), the LPGA, Ladies European Tour and the Asian Tour (which this year added a 10-event International Series funded by LIV). Those relationships cover a wide swath of the Endeavor business, from event management and data collection to media-rights consulting and content production.
Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay and the LPGA’s Lydia Ko are among the golfers represented by Endeavor on the agency side.
LIV’s arrival quickly became the conversation in golf this year, with the venture pitting itself against the PGA Tour in the media and in court, and players against one another. With massive purses and guarantees of hundreds of millions of dollars to golfers who made the jump, LIV successfully recruited some of the PGA Tour’s biggest stars, including Phil Mickelson (reportedly for $200 million), Dustin Johnson ($150 million), Bryson DeChambeau ($125 million), Brooks Koepka ($100 million) and Cameron Smith ($100 million), who made the jump just weeks after winning his first major at the 2022 Open Championship.
Despite commitment from high-profile players, the controversial tour has struggled to find sponsors and television partners, securing support from Saudi-backed real estate developer Roshn and few others in its first year. LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman hopes to fill some of those voids for the 2023 season.
The PGA Tour has also made changes, including a series of moves aimed at better compensating the stars that stayed, creating a series of higher-paying tournaments, establishing a minimum payment to all tour players and adding to the pot set aside to reward the Tour’s most popular athletes. PGA loyalists Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are also launching their own golf side project, TMRW Sports, whose investors include the PGA Tour. Endeavor is not involved with TMRW Sports.