Greg Norman’s world view of golf and what the game can become around the world is expanding with his new role as chief executive officer of LIV Golf Investments, which Friday announced a new 10-tournament series on the Asian Tour that will begin play in 2022.
Norman is stepping away from Greg Norman Company to focus on LIV Golf, and a source confirmed he will be commissioner of a new golf league that has been rumored but not yet announced.
What has become clear is there is more to come from Norman.
“This is only the beginning.” – Greg Norman
The partnership between LIV Golf and the Asian Tour is expected to be connected to the new league, which is intent on beginning play next year.
“This is only the beginning,” Norman said in a press release announcing his new role. “LIV Golf Investments has secured a major capital commitment that will be used to create additive new opportunities across worldwide professional golf. We will be a cooperative and respectful supporter of the game at every level, and today’s announcement alongside the Asian Tour is the first example of that.
“I have been a staunch supporter and believer in playing and developing golf in Asia for more than four decades. The Asian Tour is a sleeping giant and we share ambition to grow the series and unlock what we believe is significant untapped potential. We see our promotion of these new events as a vital first step in supporting emerging markets, creating a new platform, rich with playing opportunities that create valuable player pathways.”
There were earlier reports that Norman would become commissioner of the Asian Tour but he will not. LIV Golf is not an investor in the Asian Tour but will promote the new tournament series.
While Norman will continue to work in his course design business, his attention will be concentrated on LIV Golf Investments, funded largely by the Saudi-based Public Investment Fund, which has assets in excess of $500 billion. The PIF will be the largest shareholder in LIV Golf Investments, though other investors are expected to join.
The creation of a new 10-event series for the next 10 years, which comes as part of a $200 million total investment in prize money and playing opportunities, is a critical step for the Asian Tour, which has not staged events since the global pandemic struck in early 2020. The tour is scheduled to resume play next month in Thailand.
“It’s simply groundbreaking for us,” said Asian Tour commissioner Cho Minn Thant. “It’s the biggest deal we’ve seen on the Asian Tour.
“A sleeping giant. What does that mean? For the longest time, people have seen Asia as the new frontier but from a golf perspective, from a golf tour perspective we were always …
“We use the analogy of trying to fix the plane while you’re flying it. One tournament drops off, one comes on. We’ve been struggling doing short-term tournament agreements for two decades.
“With this opportunity, it’s 10 events for 10 years, the stability it gives us is ammunition to answer questions to the corporate world, the broadcast world.”
A five-year strategic alliance between the Asian and European Tours ended this year, and the two tours had co-sanctioned events for 15 years. The Asian Tour has no agreements with the PGA Tour.
“It’s time to go our separate ways,” Thant said. “We pride ourselves on collaboration. It’s a one-way decision the PGA Tour and the European Tour have made.”
In September, the Asian Tour announced a 10-year agreement to host the Saudi International, which had been on the European Tour schedule the previous three years.
Norman’s role in LIV Golf marks a shift for him away from his multiple businesses, which include clothing, restaurants, real estate development and course design.
In 1994, Norman attempted to create a series of global tournaments but the PGA Tour rejected his efforts and Norman eventually abandoned the concept.
“I am happy to partner with this group of investors to bring the significant resources to bear that are necessary for the fundamental changes required for the greater good of the sport.” – Greg Norman
As rumors have swirled about potential new professional golf opportunities, the announcement of Norman’s involvement with the support of the PIF escalates the discussion.
Multiple executives have come on board with LIV Golf Investments already and more are expected to follow, though no names have been announced.
The inclusion of the PIF, one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds, brings with it an element of controversy given its Saudi Arabian base. The country has been sharply criticized for its human rights record, particularly its treatment of women and the killing of a journalist three years ago.
The PIF, which has investments around the world including substantial investments in Boeing, Citigroup, Facebook, Tesla and Uber among others, recently purchased the controlling interest in Newcastle United, a soccer team in England’s Premier League.
“I am pleased that the investor base is 100 percent commercially driven by the opportunity to improve golf for all involved,” Norman said. “I am happy to partner with this group of investors to bring the significant resources to bear that are necessary for the fundamental changes required for the greater good of the sport.”
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