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Dunne resigns from PGA Tour board, feels his input is no longer needed

Jimmy Dunne PGA Jimmy Dunne - Getty Images

Jimmy Dunne, one of the architects behind the PGA Tour's stunning reversal to strike a deal with the Saudi backers of LIV Golf, abruptly resigned Monday from the PGA Tour board with a letter that expressed frustration at the lack of progress that no longer included his input.

Dunne, a power broker on Wall Street and in golf circles, was not included on the PGA Tour Enterprise's new “transaction subcommittee” that will be handling the direct negotiations with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

Dunne and Ed Herlihy, an attorney specializing in mergers and acquisition and chairman of PGA Tour Inc., were whom PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan leaned on when he first met with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the PIF governor, that led to the June 6 agreement.

The immediate result of the deal was an end to antitrust lawsuits neither side wanted and had already cost the PGA Tour in the neighborhood of $50 million. The tour has since brought on Strategic Sports Group as a minority investor in a deal initially worth $1.5 billion.

“As you are aware, I have not been asked to take part in negotiations with the PIF since June 2023,” Dunne said in his letter to the board first obtained by Sports Illustrated.

“Since the players now outnumber the independent directors on the board, and no meaningful progress has been made towards a transaction with the PIF, I feel like my vote and my role is utterly superfluous,” he wrote.

The tour, feeling pushback and resentment for the secrecy behind the June 6 deal, appointed Tiger Woods to the board with no term limit. The board now has six player directors — Woods, Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth, Webb Simpson, Adam Scott and Peter Malnati — and five independent directors.

Dunne is the second independent director to resign following the June 6 announcement. Randall Stephenson, former AT&T chairman, resigned in July over objections to the agreement with the Saudis.

Rory McIlroy resigned from the board in November, and player directors appointed Spieth to finish his term.

The move signals the tour in a state of disarray as it tries to work out a deal with PIF and start the process of unifying a sport that has been divided since LIV launched in June 2022.

The June 6 agreement included a deadline to complete a deal by the end of 2023. By then, the tour had private equity suitors and LIV Golf signed reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm and eventually Tyrrell Hatton.

Dunne said along with the lawsuits being dismissed — often overlooked as a key point in the agreement with PIF — the agreement did not contain an exclusivity clause that allowed players “a full range of options to seek outside investors.”

“That resulted in a multi-billion-dollar commitment from the Strategic Sports Group,” Dunne wrote. “I believe that history will look favorably on this outcome and the very real opportunities now afforded the tour.”

Monahan and the player directors eventually met with Al-Rumayyan for the first time in March, though there has been no clear progress on any deal — PIF as a minority investor or how to bring back the best players together more than four times a year at the majors.

Simpson, meanwhile, offered to resign from the board contingent on McIlroy replacing him. That never happened, with McIlroy saying last week "there was a subset of people on the board that were maybe uncomfortable with me coming back on for some reason.”

Instead, McIlroy was added to the transaction subcommittee along with Woods; Scott; Monahan; liaison director Joe Ogilvie; Joe Gorder, the CEO of Valero Energy Corp. and chairman of PGA Tour Enterprises; and John W. Henry of Fenway Sports Group, a principal in SSG.

“It is crucial for the board to avoid letting yesterday’s differences interfere with today’s decisions, especially when they influence future opportunities for the tour,” Dunne wrote. “Unifying professional golf is paramount to restoring fan interest and repairing wounds left from a fractured game. I have tried my best to move all minds in that direction.”

According to the tour's bylaws, the four independent directors choose Dunne's replace after consulting the player directors and John Lindert, the PGA of America president who is a nonvoting board member.


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