Rory McIlroy, the esteemed golfer who was among the fiercest opponents of his sport’s growing ties to Saudi Arabia, has resigned from the PGA Tour’s board of directors.
The tour confirmed his departure in a statement on Tuesday evening.
“Given the extraordinary time and effort that Rory – and all of his fellow player directors – have invested in the Tour during this unprecedented transformational period in our history, we certainly understand and respect his decision to step away to focus on his game.” and his family,” Commissioner Jay Monahan and Edward D. Herlihy, the board chairman, said in the statement.
Mr. McIlroy, the men said, “was instrumental in the success of the tour, and his willingness to thoughtfully express his opinions was particularly effective.”
Mr. McIlroy’s agent did not respond to a message seeking comment.
Mr. McIlroy’s decision came about five months after the tour reached an agreement, following secret negotiations, with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund to try to create a joint venture that would end golf’s money-driven war for supremacy. Most board members, including Mr. McIlroy, were unaware of the agreement or the discussions leading up to it until shortly before it was announced in June, putting the duel between the tour and LIV Golf, the league that Saudi Arabia has with one Mixture of has built up billions of dollars and major departures from the PGA Tour.
Mr. McIlroy soon expressed a pragmatic fatalism about the agreement – which would see the Tour and the wealth fund combine their commercial golf operations – and the proposed partnership with Saudi Arabia, which has expanded its investment in the sport.
“When you think about one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, would you rather have them as a partner or an enemy?” Mr. McIlroy asked on June 7, a day after the tour announced the deal, which has still not been completed. “At the end of the day, it’s money that counts and you’d rather have her as a partner.”
But he also made no secret of the fact that the tour’s machinations had taken him by surprise and hurt him. Few golfers were harsher critics of the LIV and the players who joined it, and the PGA Tour had benefited from the credibility of a four-time major tournament winner who effectively served as its leading public champion.
“It’s hard for me not to sit up here and feel a little bit like a sacrificial lamb and feel like I’ve put myself out there and this is exactly what’s happening,” said Mr. McIlroy, who has also been among those during the pandemic Leaders of the tour spoke at the same press conference in Toronto.
Although he continued, he signaled this week that he was tired of the role. Asked in the United Arab Emirates whether he enjoyed his board role, Mr McIlroy replied: “Not particularly, no. Not what I signed up for every time I went to the forum. But yes, professional golf has been changing for two years.”
He gave no indication that an exit was imminent.
On Monday, the 12-member board wrapped up a meeting at the tour’s headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, where it heard of a handful of offers for minority stakes that could capture or accompany any Saudi money. In a memo to players on Tuesday, Mr. Monahan, the tour’s commissioner, said the board had “agreed to continue the negotiation process to select the final minority investor(s) in a timely manner.”
Mr. Monahan said in his memo that the tour heard from “dozens” of interested parties about possible investments and passed the candidates to a smaller group for board consideration. For the tour, which has drawn criticism from Congress and the Justice Department for its evolving approach to working with Saudi Arabia, the stakes go beyond money.
Some players and executives believe a role by influential American investors could reduce Washington’s criticism of the deal and possible attempts to block it.
“Even if a deal gets done, it’s not a sure thing,” McIlroy said this week. “So yeah, we’ll just have to wait and see. But in my opinion, the quicker something gets done, the better.”
Mr. McIlroy is the second person to resign from the tour’s board since the summer. In July, Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s former chief executive, resigned from the post he held for a dozen years, citing his “serious concerns about how this framework agreement came about without board oversight.” Mr. Stephenson wrote at the time that he could not “objectively evaluate or in good conscience support” the deal, particularly given the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Saudi Arabia was responsible for the 2018 murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Mr. Stephenson’s departure caused a stir on Wall Street and in golf’s inner sanctum. But Mr. McIlroy’s decision is a particularly public blow to the tour and its board. Although the group still includes the likes of Tiger Woods and Patrick Cantlay, Mr. McIlroy, 34, has long been one of golf’s loveliest stars.
But when it came time for the tour to begin negotiations with the wealth fund, he was among the board members left out of the talks.
Only two members, Mr. Herlihy, a partner at the Wall Street law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and James J. Dunne III, a vice chairman at the investment bank Piper Sandler, were involved. The secrecy angered other board members and helped spark a player revolt that led to the appointment of Mr. Woods as director that summer.
Hours before the Tour confirmed Mr. McIlroy’s resignation, it announced a replacement for Mr. Stephenson: Joseph W. Gorder, Valero’s executive chairman.
Source : www.nytimes.com