Confirmed: PGA Tour and PIF to meet in person in New York on Friday afternoon — and why John Henry’s role is critical

June 7, 2024

One day after the one-year anniversary of the PGA-Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund announcing the Framework Agreement, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan and Tiger Woods are leading a group that is meeting in person with the PIF’s governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan on Friday afternoon in New York.

Speaking to a handful of reporters, including Sports Illustrated’s Bob Harig on Thursday, Rory McIlroy, who was named to the Tour’s Transaction Subcommittee a few weeks ago, confirmed he would be part of the meeting, joining remotely via video conference following his second round of the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio.

McIlroy said the group has talked three times a week with the Saudis. The New York meeting represents their first in-person gathering since March. The other members of the committee are Adam Scott, board liaison Joe Ogilvie, Enterprises chairman Joe Gorder and Fenway Sports Group principal John Henry.

“There’s going to be people in that room on the PGA Tour side who are going to take the lead,” McIlroy told a handful of reporters after his round. “And it’s not going to be Adam, Tiger or I. It’s going to be the business guys. We’re there to maybe give a perspective from a player’s point of view.

“This is a negotiation about an investment in the PGA Tour Enterprises, this is big-boy stuff. And I’ll certainly be doing more listening than I will be doing talking.”

Henry, whose Fenway Sports Group owns the Boston Red Sox, Liverpool Football Club and Pittsburgh Penguins, is one of the leaders of the ‘big-boy stuff.’ In an engaging profile of Henry, the Financial Times includes the story of how Strategic Sports Group, which already has invested $1.5 billion in PGA Tour Enterprises and potentially as much as $3 billion, came to be.

A year ago in June, a week after the blockbuster news of the PGA Tour-Saudi PIF’s framework agreement and intention to create a new for-profit company, Henry was in New York to attend a routine meeting of baseball owners.

Boston Red Sox owner John Henry, left., at Fenway Park before a game against the Minnesota Twins. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

“Henry couldn’t understand how it had come to this. Why was golf, the most well-heeled of elite sports, so desperate for financial salvation that it would merge with its ideological and marketplace opposite?” Sara Germano writes on “Seated in a midtown skyscraper with a half-dozen of his fellow billionaires — all men, all American — at the Major League Baseball meeting, he saw a group of like-minded titans. Couldn’t they come up with an alternative plan for the PGA Tour, he wondered. Henry started asking around the room: would you put up some funds to invest in golf? How about you? To others present for the meeting, golf was the last thing they thought Henry would be interested in. “He has a lot of hobbies, but that’s not one of them,” recalled Sam Kennedy, chief executive of FSG and one of Henry’s closest associates for more than two decades. But Henry wasn’t making a passion play. He had seen a problem and was in a roomful of people with the means to fix it.”

According to the Financial Times, the baseball owner’s meeting became the launch pad of SSG, a consortium of American businessmen whose portfolios include all manner of global sports. As Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and PGA Tour Superstore, told, Henry’s pitch went like this: “the world of golf was in “turmoil,” and would he have any interest in joining an optional financial lifeline to the PGA Tour, either instead of or in addition to the PIF merger?

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank walks of the field against the Tennessee Titans during the second half at Nissan Stadium. (Photo: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports)

Blank was among those owners, which also include New York Mets owner, Steve Cohen, who signed up. “We saw it as doing the right thing, as leading American businessmen,” Blank told Germano.

On the morning of Nov. 9, she reported that Woods invited the prospective investors to his oceanside offices in Jupiter, Florida.

“According to people who were present, Woods was joined by fellow players Rory McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay, as well as the Raine Group’s Colin Neville, along with various staff. Several other players tuned in via Zoom. The SSG delegation consisted of Henry, his wife Linda, FSG executives Tom Werner and Sam Kennedy, Blank and Andy Cohen of Steve Cohen’s Private Ventures, among others.”

This paragraph from the Henry profile may give a clue to his role in Friday’s meeting: “Despite his reputation, Henry was anything but reticent that morning. ‘John probably repeated 10 times, ‘We want to be aligned with the players’,” one person who was present told Germano. “It left a good impression with the golfers, and SSG went back to their offices to polish the finer points of their proposal.”

Less than a week ago, Scott told Golfweek that negotiations were about to heat up and that appears to be true.