Thanks to Saudi ties, golf deal promises benefits for Trump

Former President Donald Trump waves from his suite on the 16th hole, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ on July 31, 2022. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

Former President Donald Trump waves from his suite on the 16th hole, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ on July 31, 2022. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — Tuesday’s surprise deal ending a civil war in professional golf is expected to produce benefits for former President Donald Trump’s family business by increasing the possibility that major tournaments will continue to be played on courses belonging to Trump in the United States and possibly abroad.

The result is the latest example of how the close relationship between Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, and Saudi Arabia, whose sovereign wealth fund is the force behind the upheaval in the world of golf, has proved to be beneficial for both parties. even though it has drawn intense ethical scrutiny and political criticism.

Even as it injected new funds and competition into professional golf, Saudi Arabia has been accused of using its wealth to enhance its global reputation and cloud its human rights record through sport. . That campaign now appears to have generated business opportunities and greater visibility in the golf world for Trump as he seeks another term in the White House.

Sign up for The Morning of the New York Times newsletter

Since the creation of LIV Golf, the Saudi-funded independent professional golf tour, Trump and his family have aligned themselves with LIV against the PGA Tour at a time when the golf establishment in the United States and Britain Bretagne had decided to close Trump’s courses. major professional competitions, a trophy the Trump family had long sought.

The hijacking of Trump and his classes only accelerated after the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. Just days after the assault, the PGA of America announced it was canceling a slated 2022 tournament at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey that had been planned for years.

LIV has quickly become the Trump family’s ticket back to the rarefied world of global tournaments, with events last year at Bedminster and Trump National Doral, the family’s golf resort near Miami. This year, LIV hosted tournaments at three Trump courses, adding Trump National Golf Club in northern Virginia to the schedule.

The decision of professional golf in the United States to avoid Trump had infuriated his family members. Trump’s company had spent more than a decade buying or developing golf courses around the world for the purpose of hosting major tournaments, which helps boost memberships by putting the courses in the spotlight and could lend a degree of sporting legitimacy to Trump, an avid golfer.

Since Trump was in the White House, he and his family have had unusually close ties to Saudi Arabia and the royal family there. His first trip abroad as president was to Riyadh, where he received a lavish welcome.

Trump went on to downplay the Saudi government’s role in the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident Saudi journalist, and he defended Saudi Arabia’s long military campaign in neighboring Yemen while in office.

After Trump left, that relationship continued in the form of a $2 billion commitment from the Public Investment Fund – headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia – to an investment fund created by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. -law. The Saudi fund also invested $1 billion in a company run by Steven Mnuchin, who had served as Trump’s Treasury Secretary.

LIV Golf is backed by the same Saudi fund. Fund chief Yasir al-Rumayyan, an avid golfer who also took on the role of overseeing LIV Golf, has spent lavishly recruiting top professional players like Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka and big names like Phil Mickelson with scholarships of $25 million and guaranteed contracts. which sometimes amounted to $100 million or more.

But the new alliance between the PGA Tour and LIV will only heighten questions about Trump and potential conflicts of interest as he does business with foreign government entities while running for the White House again.

Already, the Justice Department, as part of its investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents, has subpoenaed the Trump Organization, seeking documents relating to Trump’s dealings with LIV Golf.

Under the deal announced on Tuesday, al-Rumayyan, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, will join the PGA Tour’s board of directors. Al-Rumayyan also said on Tuesday that the Saudi investment fund was ready to invest billions of dollars in the merged golf tournament effort.

On Truth Social, Trump’s social media platform and personal megaphone, he wrote, “Great news from LIV Golf. A big, beautiful and glamorous affair for the wonderful world of golf.

Trump’s son, Eric Trump, in an interview on Tuesday also praised the deal, calling it “a wonderful thing for the game of golf”, adding that he expects tournaments to continue on the courses. owned by Trump once the merger is complete.

When asked if the Trump family played a role in urging the PGA Tour and the wealth fund to join forces, Eric Trump declined to comment. But he said the family had developed close friends over many years in the golfing world, including those associated with the PGA Tour and LIV.

The Trump family has sought to have more of its golf courses host LIV tournaments, including a club in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and the Trump Turnberry Golf Resort in Scotland, venues it now hopes to see added in the years to come to a reunited golf industry. .

It reflects the Trump family’s strenuous efforts to hold events at its courses, including in Scotland, which the British Open, one of professional golf’s major tournaments, has repeatedly refused to do. While president, Trump enlisted the US ambassador to Britain to lobby the UK government, unsuccessfully, to hold a tournament at Turnberry.

Payments from LIV tournaments do not appear in Trump’s financial disclosure report, which he filed in May, suggesting the fees go directly to individual golf clubs and are counted in their overall revenue. The Trump family did not say how much they earned with LIV.

“Look, these are peanuts to me. They’re peanuts,” Trump said in an interview with reporters last month at his golf club in Virginia at a LIV event, adding that “they pay rental fees. They want to use my properties because they are the best properties.

In July, just before the first LIV tournament took place at Trump National Bedminster, Trump predicted that rival golf tours would eventually merge, and he suggested players who stuck with the PGA Tour were making a financial mistake.

“All of those golfers who remain ‘faithful’ to the very treacherous PGA, in all its various guises, will pay a heavy price when the inevitable MERGER with LIV arrives, and you’ll get nothing but a big ‘thank you’ PGA officials making millions of dollars a year,” Trump wrote on Truth Social in July 2022. intelligence of the original signatories.”

In an interview last year at Trump National Doral, when the LIV tournament was taking place there, Trump added that he was confident the Saudis would win the dispute.

“You’re not going to beat these people,” Trump said in October. “These people have great minds, they’re phenomenal people, and they have unlimited – unlimited money.”

There will be no immediate effect for Trump as the PGA and LIV tours at least for now will each continue independently with the LIV season continuing as planned this year and the PGA sticking to competition venues she had already identified, a spokesperson for the PGA Tour announced Tuesday.

But his alliance with the Saudis carries certain political risks for Trump as he campaigns to return to the White House.

The announcement of the LIV-PGA deal drew immediate protests from a group called 9/11 Families United, which pushed for further investigation into the origins of the 2001 terrorist attacks. The group called the efforts by Saudi Arabia to enter professional ‘sportswashing’ golf as part of a plan to improve the country’s human rights record and allegations of links between the hijackers and the Saudi government.

PGA Tour executives, a spokesperson for 9/11 Families United said in a statement, “appear to have just become more paid Saudi accomplices, taking billions of dollars to clean up the Saudi reputation,” a claim that also has brought protesters to Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster last year when the LIV tournament was being played there.

Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., noted Tuesday that the PGA has long rejected any discussion of a merger with LIV.

“PGA officials were in my office just a few months ago talking about how Saudis’ human rights record should disqualify them from having any involvement in a major American sport,” he said. he wrote on Twitter. “I guess maybe their concerns weren’t really about human rights?”

circa 2023 The New York Times Society

Leave a Comment