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Stephenson resigns from PGA Tour board over ‘serious concerns’ about Saudi deal, according to report

by Madison Thomas
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PGA Tour board resignation

Reportedly, Randall Stephenson, former AT&T Chairman, has resigned from the PGA Tour’s policy board due to concerns regarding the tour’s proposed collaboration with Saudi Arabia’s national wealth fund. The Washington Post revealed this development, and the PGA Tour confirmed the resignation, acknowledging Stephenson’s more than 12 years of exceptional service. Stephenson retired as chairman and CEO of AT&T in June 2020.

Stephenson’s letter, obtained by The Post and dated Saturday, expressed his inability to objectively evaluate or morally support the tour’s framework agreement with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. He cited the U.S. intelligence report on Jamal Khashoggi’s killing in 2018, which implicated Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a matter the crown prince denies. Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for The Washington Post and a critic of the crown prince, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

The proposed partnership between the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the PIF, which still requires board approval and is under review by the Justice Department, aims to establish a for-profit company that combines their commercial business and media rights. The new company’s CEO would be Jay Monahan, and Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the PIF governor, would serve as chairman. Although Al-Rumayyan would hold a seat on the PGA Tour board, the preliminary deal ensures the PGA retains a majority vote.

Stephenson initially intended to resign on June 12, but Monahan took a leave of absence for medical reasons. Monahan recently announced his return to work on July 17. In his resignation letter, Stephenson emphasized his initial intent to serve the best players in the world and promote the values of sportsmanship in golf. He urged the board to reconsider its governance model and explore alternative sources of capital beyond the current framework agreement.

The 10-member PGA Tour board comprises five players and five independent directors, including board chairman Ed Herlihy and Jimmy Dunne, who assisted Monahan in negotiating the deal with Al-Rumayyan over a seven-week period. The remaining independent directors are Mark Flaherty, an investment manager for Goldman Sachs, and Mary Meeker, a venture capitalist.

Stephenson’s resignation precedes the upcoming testimonies of Dunne and Ron Price, the tour’s COO, before a Congressional subcommittee. The subcommittee seeks further details about the partnership between the PGA Tour and the Saudi wealth fund. As per the tour’s bylaws, the four independent directors will consult with the players on the board and John Lindert, the non-voting PGA of America president, to select Stephenson’s replacement. No specific timeframe has been provided for filling the vacant position.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about PGA Tour board resignation

Why did Randall Stephenson resign from the PGA Tour board?

Randall Stephenson resigned from the PGA Tour board due to concerns about the tour’s proposed partnership with Saudi Arabia’s national wealth fund, particularly in light of the U.S. intelligence report regarding the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Who is Randall Stephenson?

Randall Stephenson is the former Chairman and CEO of AT&T. He served on the PGA Tour board for over 12 years before resigning over concerns about the Saudi deal.

What is the PGA Tour’s proposed partnership with Saudi Arabia’s national wealth fund?

The PGA Tour is considering a partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) to create a for-profit company that would combine their commercial business and media rights. This partnership is still pending board approval and is being reviewed by the Justice Department.

What was the U.S. intelligence report concerning Jamal Khashoggi?

The U.S. intelligence report concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman likely approved the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist and critic of the crown prince. Khashoggi was slain at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

How will the PGA Tour board fill the vacancy left by Randall Stephenson’s resignation?

According to the tour’s bylaws, the four independent directors will consult with the five players on the board and the non-voting PGA of America president to select Stephenson’s replacement. No specific timeframe has been provided for filling the vacant position.

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