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LIV Golf gets setback in court against PGA Tour

Court allows the PGA Tour to directly sue LIV Golf’s Saudi backers. A lawsuit initially brought by players against golf’s biggest touring body is now pitting the PGA Tour directly against the wealth of Saudi Arabia. the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has granted one of the PGA Tour’s chief goals. A ruling issued late Tuesday will allow the Tour to add Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, LIV’s financial backer, and its governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, as defendants in its lawsuit against LIV. The Associated Press has the story:

LIV Golf gets setback in court against PGA Tour

Newslooks- (AP)

A federal judge has ruled the PGA Tour can add Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and its governor, Yasir al-Rumayyan, as defendants in its countersuit in the ongoing legal fight with LIV Golf.

The ruling Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman was the second setback in the last week for Saudi-funded LIV Golf, which has accused the PGA Tour of monopolistic actions as the rival league gets started.

LIV Golf’s second season kicks off Friday at a Mexican beach resort south of Cancun.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan van Keulen last week ruled the Public Investment Fund, which owns 93% of LIV Golf, and al-Rumayyan are required to give testimony and produce documents related to the antitrust lawsuit.

FILE – Phil Mickelson greets spectators as he walks onto the 16th tee in the first round of play at the Northern Trust golf tournament, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, at Liberty National Golf Course in Jersey City, N.J. Phil Mickelson, the chief recruiter for a Saudi-funded rival league to the PGA Tour, was the last big name to join the 48-man field for the LIV Golf Invitational that starts Friday outside London. It will be Mickelson’s first time playing since Feb. 6 at the Saudi International. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Now their involvement deepens as defendants in the countersuit.

Lawyers for PIF and al-Rumayyan had sought to quash subpoenas claiming sovereign immunity. They are expected to appeal van Keulen’s decision that their involvement falls under the commercial activity exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act.

The dispute centers around LIV’s argument that PIF and al-Rumayyan were investors, while the PGA Tour says documents obtained during the discovery process indicate they were actively involved in attracting players to join the league and thus breach contracts with the PGA Tour.

FILE – Yasir Al-Rumayyan, left, governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of Golf Saudi, center, and Greg Norman, CEO of LIV Golf, watch at the first tee during the second round of the Bedminster Invitational LIV Golf tournament in Bedminster, N.J., on July 30, 2022. A federal judge has ruled the head of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the financial backer of LIV Golf, must sit for depositions and produce documents in LIV Golf’s antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour. Lawyers for the Public Investment Fund and its governor, Yasir al-Rumayyan, had sought to quash subpoenas claiming sovereign immunity. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

In her ruling, Freeman said adding PIF and al-Rumayyan as defendants in the counterclaim would not delay the trial, tentatively set for January 2024. She wrote in her ruling that any delay “is not likely to outlast the delay caused by the subpoena dispute.”

Phil Mickelson was among 11 players who sued the PGA Tour on Aug. 3 in the Northern California court. LIV Golf joined the lawsuit, and now only three players — Matt Jones, Bryson DeChambeau and Peter Uihlein — remain as plaintiffs.

In a separate ruling, Freeman ruled the PGA Tour’s amended counterclaim must keep under seal details related to LIV’s contracts and business strategy. However, she denied LIV’s request to keep sealed matters that relate to the Saudi involvement in LIV operations.

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