Randall Stephenson, a former AT&T executive and an influential voice in professional golf, resigned from his position on the PGA Tour’s policy board over the weekend, citing “serious concerns” with the tour’s proposed deal with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
Stephenson’s resignation, which was first reported by the Washington Post, has been confirmed by Golf Digest.
Stephenson had been a part of the tour’s policy board for more than a decade. In a letter to the board, Stephenson pointed to Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, writing the partnership with the kingdom is “not one that I can objectively evaluate or in good conscience support”. Additionally, Stephenson advocated in the letter that the tour and its board reconsider how it runs its operations and makes decisions.
“I hope, as this board moves forward, it will comprehensively rethink its governance model,” Stephenson said, “and keep its options open to evaluate alternative sources of capital beyond the current framework agreement.”
The move comes just days ahead of the PGA Tour’s Congressional hearing on July 11 regarding its proposed partnership with Saudi Arabia. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan will not testify before the Senate due to his health-related absence – although Monahan announced on Friday that he plans to return on July 17 – with PGA Tour chief operating officer Ron Price and PGA Tour board member Jimmy Dunne representing the organisation. Dunne, along with tour board member Ed Herlihy, facilitated the deal between the tour and Saudi Arabia, while Price is currently acting as co-commissioner in the absence of Monahan. LIV Golf’s chief executive Greg Norman and PIF governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan passed on the invite to testify citing scheduling issues.
According to the Washington Post report, Stephenson had planned to resign from his position in June, but put his announcement on hold after Monahan’s health-related absence.
In a memo to PGA Tour players acknowledging Stephenson’s resignation, Price and PGA Tour executive vice-president Tyler Dennis thanked Stephenson for “his exemplary service to this organisation and dedication to you – the membership – for more than 12 years”.
The tour’s policy board is made up of five players and five independent directors. Along with Herlihy, Dunne and Stephenson, the other two directors are Mark Flaherty (former vice-chairman of Wellington Management) and Mary Meeker (a partner ay Bond Capital). The five players on the board are Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Peter Malnati, Webb Simpson and Charley Hoffman. Any deal between the tour and PIF would need to be signed off by the board.