While LIV Golf and the PGA Tour battle in a California federal court, the PGA Tour has opened a new legal front in Manhattan.
Last Thursday, the PGA Tour sued the Public Investment Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its governor, Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyan, in the Southern District of New York.
Yasir Al-Rumayyan, 52, holds influential positions in the wealth management, oil and sports industries. The Public Investment Fund, which he directs under the leadership of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, manages more than $600 billion in assets and plans including a stake in concert promoter Live Nation. It also recently announced the opening of a New York subsidiary office (and similar offices in London and Hong Kong) to conduct business activities. A NYC office falls under SDNY jurisdiction. In addition, Al-Rumayyan is chairman of both Saudi Aramco and Newcastle United–which he secured after MBS texted former British prime minister Boris Johnson, according to a recent New Yorker story on Saudi golf plans.
The entire case is under seal and has not yet been assigned to a judge. The filing was made by attorney Elliot Peters, a former federal prosecutor who successfully defended Lance Armstrong against False Claims Act allegations. Peters represented the PGA Tour in August when Judge Beth Lasbon Freeman ruled against LIV golfers’ petition for a restraining order.
Although the records are sealed, the titles of the documents are mentioned. They include a motion to compel, which, when granted by a judge, requires a party to produce evidence, including documents related to a dispute. Here, those documents could include contracts and financial statements related to Saudi Arabia’s backing of LIV. A motion to compel can also seek responses to written questions, also known as interrogatories, and requests for admissions to certain purported facts. In addition, a motion could demand that Saudi officials appear at a deposition in order to answer questions under oath.
In recent filings in San Francisco, the PGA Tour charges that LIV reflects an effort to “sportswash the recent history of Saudi atrocities.” LIV, for its part, contends the PGA Tour wields unrivaled control over elite golfers to pay them less and to exclude LIV and other potential competitors. The NYC litigation is designed to apply additional pressure on LIV’s backers to turn over information.
(This story was altered in the first paragraph to clarify the location of the previous LIV suit.)