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Former AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson has become the first PGA Tour board member to resign from their post in the wake of the planned merger between the Tour, DP World Tour, and the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF).
The PGA Tour confirmed Stephenson’s resignation in a memo to all of its members.
Stephenson was a member of the Tour’s board for over 12 years, but mentioned “serious concerns” and cited the death of Saudi columnist Jama Khashoggi in his letter of resignation obtained by the Washington Post.
The letter, dated July 8, explained that the merger ” is not one that I can objectively evaluate or in good conscience support, particularly in light of the U.S. intelligence report concerning Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.”
“I hope, as this board moves forward, it will comprehensively rethink its governance model and keep its options open to evaluate alternative sources of capital beyond the current framework agreement,” Stephenson’s letter also read in part.
Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for the Post, was a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 with U.S. intelligence finding that the crown prince most likely approved the killing.
Khashoggi’s death and claims of sportswashing have been at the forefront of the argument against both LIV Golf and now the announcement of the merger.
There are still dozens of questions to be answered about the PGA Tour – Saudi PIF merger, with some likely to be answered as the DOJ is looking into the plans.