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Saudis have Greg Norman to thank for their U.S. legal nightmare

Greg Norman on LIV Golf, PGA Tour ‘firestorm,’ and more

While traveling to LIV Golf’s season-opening event in Mexico, Greg Norman posted to social media two photos of himself on a private jet, one as he read, the other while gazing meditatively through the window. The accompanying caption read: “Books are the training weights of the mind — Epictetus.”

In keeping with the custom of his every waking hour, it was carefully staged image-building, suggesting a swashbuckling captain of industry on another successful sortie. With the time spent curating selfies, Norman could have scrolled to another quote from Epictetus — or, more accurately, from his transcribing student Arrian, since the Greek Stoic himself left no writings: “Neither should a ship rely on one small anchor, nor should life rest on a single hope.”

Norman’s LIV Golf has a solitary anchor that prevents it from being dashed on the rocks of commercial reality, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. When it comes to an ability to throw good money after bad, the PIF is an enviable ally to have. But as Norman opens LIV’s second season with his trademark delusional enthusiasm masquerading as unstoppable momentum, he must worry that legal developments in California’s Northern District might prompt that affluent anchor to cast him adrift.

The past week brought disappointments that the flaxen-haired finger puppet has seldom experienced outside of Augusta National.

On Feb. 16, the court rejected arguments by the Saudi investment fund and its governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, that they should not have to comply with discovery requests in LIV’s antitrust action against the PGA Tour. Producing documents or submitting to a deposition, Saudi lawyers argued, would violate sovereign immunity and endanger Al-Rumayyan, who is under no illusions about the mercurial brutality of the Crown Prince for whom he functions as bagman (hey, caveat emptor!). But because Al-Rumayyan is involved in decision-making and the Fund owns 93% of LIV (while paying 100% of its costs), the pretense of being a mere investor was dismissed and the court compelled them to comply.

Then, on Feb. 21 Judge Beth Labson Freeman granted the Tour’s request to add Al-Rumayyan and the Fund as co-defendants in its countersuit against LIV that alleges interference with player contracts. Now a party in the litigation, the Saudi Fund and its chief can no longer rebuff the jurisdiction of the very court whose protection they sought. Within hours, the Kingdom…


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