Jimmy Dunne, Architect of PGA Tour-PIF Framework Agreement, Resigns From Tour Board

In a resignation letter obtained by Sports Illustrated, Dunne said there has been "no meaningful progress" toward a deal with LIV Golf's backer that would unify pro golf.
Jimmy Dunne has resigned from the PGA Tour Policy Board.
Jimmy Dunne has resigned from the PGA Tour Policy Board. / Jack Gruber-USA TODAY

Jimmy Dunne, one of the architects of the PGA Tour’s framework agreement with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, resigned from the Tour’s policy board Monday, effective immediately. In a letter to the board that was obtained by Sports Illustrated, Dunne wrote that “no meaningful progress has been made towards a transaction with PIF,” and that ever since players seized control of the board and cut him out of negotiations, “my vote and my role is utterly superfluous.”

Dunne’s resignation comes almost a year after PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan stunned the golf world with the framework agreement. Initially rolled out as a “merger,” the framework agreement was actually the blueprint of a deal that would allow the Tour to determine the future of PIF-funded LIV Golf.

Al-Rumayyan planned to invest more than a billion dollars in the company that became PGA Tour Enterprises. He also agreed to drop litigation against the Tour “with prejudice,” meaning lawsuits could not be refiled. The agreement stipulated that Al-Rumayyan would become chair of PGA Tour Enterprises and that PIF would receive one seat on the Tour’s policy board.

Dunne, Monahan and policy board chairman Ed Herlihy negotiated that agreement in secrecy. Most Tour players were stunned by Monahan’s about-face and unhappy about finding out about it from the media. That anger has hovered over the process of completing a deal. Neither Dunne nor Herlihy is on the “transaction subcommittee” that is negotiating with PIF. Within the Tour, it is commonly accepted that Monahan has been flirting with unemployment since last June.

“It is crucial for the Board to avoid letting yesterday’s differences interfere with today’s decisions,” Dunne wrote, “especially when they influence future opportunities for the Tour. 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.”

Tellingly, Dunne said his role is superfluous now that “players now outnumber the Independent Directors on the board.”

In an attempt to placate furious players, Monahan added a board seat for Tiger Woods last summer. Last fall, Rory McIlroy, who has expressed frustration with the slow pace of negotiations, resigned from the board. He was replaced by Jordan Spieth.

SI, citing multiple sources, reported in December that board members Patrick Cantlay, Woods and Spieth had formed an alliance, with Cantlay as the leader. Cantlay told Golf.com it would be “impossible” for one player to have that much power. Spieth laughed off the SI report to the Associated Press, saying "It's been very collective since I've jumped on. It's not even a thing … (Cantlay,) like the rest of us, are all in agreement.”

But this spring, when Webb Simpson tried to resign and give his seat to McIlroy, that move was blocked. McIlroy said, "There was a subset of people on the board that were maybe uncomfortable with me coming back on for some reason.” Simpson kept his seat. Monahan then bypassed the board and added McIlroy to the transaction subcommittee.

The agreement was set to expire Dec. 31. It initially included a clause that LIV would not poach any Tour players, but the Tour struck that clause as a pre-emptive attempt to alleviate the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust concerns. Talks moved so slowly that in December, rather than finish the deal with the Tour, Al-Rumayyan signed Tour star Jon Rahm to play for LIV.

The player directors did not even meet with Al-Rumayyan until March—nine months after the framework agreement was announced. Before that meeting, Cantlay said, “I’m going into the first meeting with the idea of listening a lot more than talking,”

Last fall, the board turned to Raine Capital to guide negotiations. Raine helped the Tour strike a $3 billion deal with Strategic Sports Group in January. But more than four months later, it is not clear where the Tour’s negotiations with PIF are headed.

Monahan said in March that talks were “accelerating.” Woods said in April, “I don’t know if we’re closer, but we’re moving in the right direction.” McIlroy has pushed for a deal with PIF. Spieth has said, "I don't think it's needed” now that the Tour has a deal with SSG, though he has remained open to it.

Now Dunne is out. Of the seven members of the transaction subcommittee, only Monahan and McIlroy had official roles last June, and only Monahan participated in framework agreement negotiations.

A deal with PIF would be controversial because of Saudi Arabia’s human-rights record. But if the player directors are morally opposed to it, they have not said so—and have repeatedly stated they are willing to make a deal if they like the terms.

“When I arrived on the board in January 2023, everybody involved with the game was concerned about the fundamental threat of LIV Golf,” Dunne wrote in his resignation letter. “As directed by Commissioner Monahan, I engaged LIV’s majority owner, the Public Investment Fund, to see if we could end the lawsuits and reunify the game. Importantly, we were able to come to an agreement in which the lawsuits were dismissed with prejudice and a path was created for the Tour to remain in control of professional golf. I believe that history will look favorably on this outcome and the very real opportunities now afforded the Tour.”

Jimmy Dunne's letter of resignation from the PGA Tour Policy Board

Dear Fellow Directors,

After a great deal of thought about my role on the PGA Tour Policy Board, I have decided that it’s time to step down, accordingly I am resigning effective immediately.

When I arrived on the Board in January 2023, everybody involved with the game was concerned about the fundamental threat of LIV Golf. They were successfully luring away some of our top players, including several major champions. It was clear that the fracture would greatly damage our game and the Tour. On top of that, the Tour was engaged in burdensome litigation that was expensive, unwelcome, and uncertain. As directed by Commissioner Monahan, I engaged LIV’s majority owner, the Public Investment Fund, to see if we could end the lawsuits and reunify the game. Importantly, we were able to come to an agreement in which the lawsuits were dismissed with prejudice and a path was created for the Tour to remain in control of professional golf. Since there was no exclusivity clause, the players had a full range of options to seek outside investors. That resulted in a multi-billion-dollar commitment from the Strategic Sports Group. I believe that history will look favorably on this outcome and the very real opportunities now afforded the Tour.

As you are aware, I have not been asked to take part in negotiations with the PIF since June 2023. During my testimony at the Senate hearing, I said it was my intention to cast my vote alongside the Player Directors if a final agreement was reached with the PIF. 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.

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. 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.

I want to express my sincere gratitude to all of the Directors that I have served with over the past year and half. Thank you all for your hard work and dedication during a challenging period. I want you to know that no one will be pulling harder for your success than me. Golf has given much more to me than I could ever give back, and for that, I will always be grateful.

Sincerely,
Jimmy Dunne


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Michael Rosenberg

MICHAEL ROSENBERG

Michael Rosenberg joined Sports Illustrated as a senior writer in 2012 after working at the Detroit Free Press for 13 years, eight of them as a columnist.