The order by U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman comes on the heels of a magistrate judge’s decision to deny LIV Golf’s sovereign immunity claims and rule that the Saudis’ Public Investment Fun (PIF) and its governor, Yasir al-Rumayyan, are subject to discovery in the case and must sit for depositions.
At the PGA Tour’s request, Freeman has now formally added them to the lawsuit, ramping up the stakes and exposure for the Saudi officials.
The fund is expected to appeal the discovery order this week. The two sides have been at odds for months over how responsive the fund and al-Rumayyan needed to be in the case.
According to court filings, LIV Golf waited until after a deadline to produce documents to turn over a “Subscription and Shareholders’ Agreement” to PGA Tour lawyers in December. Much of the details from that shareholders agreement are redacted in the filings, but the PGA Tour says the paperwork makes clear that the fund and al-Rumayyan were not passive investors in LIV Golf.
“To sum up, PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan recruited players; decided how much to pay them; assured them about their positions and about indemnification from suit by PIF; and controlled the conduct of this litigation undertaken by PIF’s lawyers,” the tour asserted in one filing.
While LIV Golf filed the antitrust suit in August saying the tour was intentionally trying to curtail competition, the PGA Tour says in its countersuit that LIV Golf committed “tortious interference” by encouraging golfers to violate terms of their existing tour contracts.
LIV Golf opposed the motion to add the fund and al-Rumayyan, saying in part that amending the tour’s counterclaim and adding new parties would delay the case.
Freeman, though, said in her ruling Tuesday that “any delay LIV attributes to this amended pleading is not likely to outlast the delay caused by the subpoena dispute over PIF and [al-Rumayyan] discovery and LIV’s anticipated motion seeking review of [the discovery] order.”
There is a case management conference scheduled for Friday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The case isn’t scheduled to go to trial until January, though the PGA Tour has asked the judge to reconsider the case timeline.