Saudi-backed and Trump-backed LIV Golf sees franchises in its future

BEDMINSTER, NJ — LIV Golf is just three tournaments away, but the Saudi-backed upstart league is already thinking big about its future.

In an interview with CNBC, LIV Golf Investments President and COO Atul Khosla said the future of LIV Golf lies in teams and building franchises that can one day be sold. The organization is hosting an event this weekend, starting Friday, at former President Donald Trump’s golf club of the same name here.

“We’re building 12 teams with franchise values, just like any other sport that we fully hope will have valuation to sell,” he said. “All of these things will happen in golf that will happen in every other sport.”

Khosla says the company has come to the conclusion of its first two tournaments in London and Portland, Oregon that fans love golf as a team sport. He says the team’s merchandise sales sold out on the first day during the tournaments. “The team concept really resonates with our fans,” he said.

The new golf league is financed by the Saudi Private Investment Fund. The kingdom fund has set its sights on the sports sector as another investment in its portfolio and has invested $2 billion in LIV Golf.

Read more: Eric Trump teases dad’s potential run in 2024 with golf bag during Saudi tour

LIV spends top dollar to attract PGA Tour golf pros, offering league equity, generous prizes and guaranteed money back. So far he has signed big name players like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau. They have also removed top golf commentator David Feherty from the Golf Channel and are reportedly aiming to bring in Charles Barkley from TNT.

“We have a longer track,” Khosla said. “But our investor really wants to see returns at the end of the day.”

The Saudi support has created some controversy for LIV, however. Family members of those who perished in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks are protesting against the league. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers that day were from Saudi Arabia, and Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks, was born in the country. US officials have concluded that Saudi nationals helped fund the al-Qaeda terror group, although investigations have not revealed that Saudi officials were complicit in the attacks.

South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel of the Stinger team in action as he putts for a birdie on the 18th hole during the second round, June 10, 2022.

Paul Child | Reuters

Trump on Thursday defended the organization of the event, falsely saying that “no one got to the bottom of 9/11.”

The 9/11 Justice group protested near Trump’s course, which is less than 50 miles from the site of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.

“To see a former president pretending he doesn’t know what the Saudis did, or saying he doesn’t know about the 9/11 story, is just the worst form. C It’s the worst feeling you can have,” says the band. chairman, Brett Eagleson, told CNBC. He was 15 when he lost his father when the Twin Towers collapsed after hijackers crashed airliners there.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., sided with the protesters. “I support the 9/11 families’ quest for justice and remain committed to holding Saudi Arabia accountable for its actions,” he said in a statement Friday.

Khosla also defended LIV. He said the league was not alone in having links with Saudi Arabia. “There are about 23 PGA Tour partners today who have ties to the multi-billion dollar business in Saudi Arabia. I’m not telling the PGA Tour not to have sponsors,” he said. .

“It’s an interconnected global economy, so just because a bunch of golfers took some money, I don’t think there’s any need to get upset,” he added.

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