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.
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.
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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