LIV Golf-Augusta National feud heats up in latest round of legal filings

LIV Golf-Augusta National feud heats up in latest round of legal filings

By: Sean Zak January 25, 2023

Augusta National President Fred Ridley speaks at his annual press conference held during Masters Week.

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Even in the depths of winter, golf’s burning stove remained warm through multiple legal clashes. Recent court documents filed by the PGA Tour and LIV Golf show just how intertwined the struggle in the upper ranks of professional golf has been (or not!).

According to court documents released Monday, lawyers for LIV Golf served subpoenas on six current or former directors of the PGA Tour board of directors as well as former commissioner Tim Finchem. Buried in a joint statement between LIV and these figureheads were allegations launched by LIV against various members of Augusta National, which appears to be one of LIV’s new targets. One of the initial demands included in each subpoena to these members was a blanket demand:

Please produce “All communications between you and any Augusta National member regarding a new tour, including but not limited to LIV Golf”.

Most of the allegations in the statement remain confidential, but ANGC members Condoleezza Rice – the former Secretary of State – and Warren Stephens were listed by LIV as having “apparently attempted to influence the DOJ (Department of Justice) so that he does not investigate the [PGA] Tour.” Whether that’s true or not — complaints that come and go are hotly contested on both sides — the DOJ has launched an investigation into the PGA Tour for possible anticompetitive practices, as it has also done with the USGA and Augusta National.

Although many of the allegations in the documents were redacted, LIV continued to characterize the tour work as an “us or them campaign”, adding, “Indeed, the threat of a change in the relationship with the members of ‘Augusta was used as a stick to discourage one. of the best golfers in the world to join LIV.

The lawsuit is an antitrust case in which LIV accused the PGA Tour of organizing a “group boycott” with other governing bodies like Augusta National, the DP World Tour, the PGA of America, the USGA and the R&A. In its original complaint, LIV alleged that representatives of Augusta National launched an anti-LIV campaign, threatening to disinvite LIV players from future Masters tournaments if they joined the upstart league.

Directors of the PGA Tour Board of Directors also made their views known in the joint statement, led by Mary Meeker, a venture capitalist and Bond Capital partner. LIV’s theory that the Tour is “sowing doubt” among top golfers over their ban “is completely baseless, as evidenced by the fact that the Masters allowed LIV golfers to compete in the 2023 Masters,” the statement read. of Meeker. Just a month ago, Augusta National President Fred Ridley announced that all players who have already qualified for the 2023 tournament will be invited to play.

Just because LIV served subpoenas on those Tower-adjacent figureheads doesn’t mean they’ll get all the paperwork they want. As part of the joint statement, LIV reduced its initial request for submissions from Augusta National members from “approximately 300” to a smaller list of 21 people and the Masters Tournament Committee.

Meeker thinks the list is still too broad, asking in the documents that the group be further reduced to just 11 names. The 11 the two sides have agreed on are Ridley, Will Jones, Casey Coffman, Steve Ethun, Buzzy Johnson, Taylor Glover, Pat Battle, Terry McGuirk, Brian Roberts, Kessel Stelling and Lee Styslinger. Four of them are ANGC employees and seven are members. Others on LIV’s pick list include Rice, former president Billy Payne, new political advisory director Jimmy Dunne.

LIV’s list is too broad, argues Meeker, because many members of the committee of masters do not hold positions relevant to the case. Many of them, she notes, handle issues like Masters concessions, tee and hole locations, parking and traffic, and more. that they represent, and that some of these people have chosen to share their personal opinions of LIV with professional golfers and others.

So where does this leave us? Judge Susan van Keulen is expected to rule soon on which Augusta National members can be included in discovery efforts via subpoenas. And just because they’ll be included doesn’t mean the lawsuit will be filled with disclosures. Augusta National and its members are notoriously discreet about all dealings involving the club.

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