MONEY & BUSINESS: Joe Biden’s antitrust halt of PGA-LIV merger is just par for the course
For people out there who love pro golf and want the best of the best competing against each other every week, you better hope Donald Trump is your next president, and it’s not just because the former president is such a golf fanatic.
It’s because of the type of regulatory apparatus he will install if elected, a free-market one that will greenlight the much-needed merger of the PGA Tour and the upstart LIV Golf league. Yes, the nonsensical hatred of all things M&A by the leftists in the Biden administration has been horrible for US businesses and the economy. It also could maim professional golf.
As golf aficionados know, LIV was created as a competitor to the PGA to give fans what they want — more golf and in different formats, including shorter tournaments. It has been using Saudi money (it’s owned by the Saudis’ sovereign wealth fund known as PIF) to steal players like Phil Mickelson and others, causing enough of a ruckus in the sport that the PGA now wants to merge.
The NFL has exploded over the years as the country’s most popular sport; it’s a $19 billion-a-year business. The PGA brings in about $2 billion a year and with the Saudis as partners there’s definitely room to grow, so recently both parties set a 2024 deadline to work out the details.
Case closed, right? Not so fast. The no-brainers in the Biden antitrust orbit started getting involved — and like all things touched by Sleepy Joe’s minions, common sense is now taking a back seat to politics.
Combination in peril
The union of the two golf leagues is now on “life support,” according to two lawyers directly involved in the merger. The Biden hacks think one league instead of two might violate some odd reading of antitrust laws, possibly limiting the ability of millionaire golfers to cut deals for more money. Strange, I always thought antitrust laws were supposed to protect consumers, who obviously want a merger because they want to see top golfers square off.
On top of that, the PGA is doing business with the Saudis, a key ally in the treacherous Middle East that the left hates for civil-rights abuses.
OK, I’m not here to defend the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. But where is the left in condemning all those countries that whenever the UN meets cheer on Hamas’ massacre of innocent Israelis?
Said one of my sources: “You would think this merger is inevitable because people want to see the best against the best in golf. But all bets are off with this administration.”
Full disclosure: The closest I’ve ever gotten to a golf course was a summer job landscaping one in Westchester County, NY, back in the day. But I do know a thing or two about the confluence of politics and finance. So I can see how the PGA-LIV deal both makes financial sense and fits neatly into the Biden administration’s illogical antitrust vortex of deals that either get killed or need to be fought in the courts, which is always a crapshoot.
Recall how the administration’s wickedly left-wing FTC chief Lina Khan opposed — unsuccessfully — Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard because she claimed Microsoft might have monopoly control over the least controllable part of the economy, the business of gaming that’s driven by the innovations of tech-savvy entrepreneurs all the time.
The Biden Justice Department is blocking the JetBlue-Spirit merger because it says there needs to be more competition in the market for the discount airline business. OK, but some Wall Street analysts say Spirit could face cash-flow issues in the next year or so. A bankruptcy would automatically leave less room for competition.
Cohen takes a $wing
Seeing what the Bidenistas have done to normal deal-making, the PGA isn’t taking any chances, I am told. It recently sought and received a massive infusion of cash from Steve Cohen, the hedge fund billionaire owner of the New York Mets, and another baseball billionaire, John Henry, who owns the Boston Red Sox, to strengthen its recruiting hand just in case it has to compete against LIV for the foreseeable future, and longer if sleepy Joe gets re-elected.
Biden has done some horrible things in office: The botched Afghanistan withdrawal; the crisis at the border; needless spending that stoked inflation. Now his administration looking to decimate the joy of watching professional golf.