Former AT&T chairman Randall Stephenson has resigned from the PGA Tour board of directors over concerns about the tour’s proposed partnership with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Washington Post reported Sunday.
The PGA Tour confirmed the resignation in a memo to its members, citing Stephenson’s “exemplary service” of more than 12 years.
Stephenson retired as Chairman and CEO of AT&T in June 2020.
The Post said it received a copy His letter, dated Saturday, said the tour’s framework agreement with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund “is not a matter that I can objectively assess or in good faith support, particularly in light of the US intelligence report on Jamal Khashoggi in the year 2018.”
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was assassinated in 2018 inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. US intelligence concluded that the Crown Prince likely authorized the killing, which the Crown Prince denies.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan stunned every corner of the golfing world – including his own membership – when on June 6 he announced a partnership with the PIF, which had funded rival league LIV Golf and was part of an antitrust lawsuit.
The agreement, which is subject to approval by the PGA Tour Board of Directors and reviewed by the Justice Department, would create a for-profit entity in which the PIF, PGA Tour and European Tour would pool their commercial business and media rights.
Monahan would be CEO and Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the PIF governor, would be chairman of the new company. Al-Rumayyan would also have a seat on the PGA Tour board of directors, although the PGA had pledged in the preliminary deal that it would always have a majority decision.
Stephenson said he wanted to resign on June 12, but then Monahan resigned over health issues. Monahan announced Friday that he would be returning to work on July 17.
“I joined this board 12 years ago to serve the best players in the world and to expand the sporting virtues instilled through the game of golf,” Stephenson said in his letter. “I hope that as we move forward, this board will comprehensively review its governance model and keep options open to explore alternative sources of capital beyond the current framework.”
The PGA Tour’s 10-member Board of Directors consists of five players and five independent directors. Two of them are CEO Ed Herlihy and Jimmy Dunne, who along with Monahan spent seven weeks negotiating the deal with Al-Rumayyan.
The others are investment manager Mark Flaherty, a Goldman Sachs board member, and Mary Meeker, a venture capitalist.
The resignation comes three days before Dunne and Ron Price, the tour’s COO, are scheduled to testify before a congressional subcommittee seeking more details on the partnership between the PGA Tour and the Saudi wealth fund.
Under the tour’s charter, the four independent directors must decide who replaces Stephenson after consultation with the five players on the board and John Lindert, the president of the PGA of America, who is a non-voting board member.
There is no time frame to fill the position.