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By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal on Monday asked the PGA Tour and LIV Golf for communications and records on their planned merger, citing concerns about the Saudi government's role in the deal and risks posed by a foreign government entity assuming control over the sport.
Blumenthal, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), demanded in a letter on Monday to PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan details on how the nonprofit group came to its agreement with LIV Golf, a professional body. He also wanted to know how any newly formed entity will be structured and operated, including how the PGA Tour intends to preserve its tax-exempt status.
The PGA Tour, DP World Tour and rival Saudi-backed LIV circuit, which had been involved in a bitter fight that split the sport, announced an agreement last week to merge and form one unified commercial entity.
The LIV Golf series is bankrolled by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund and critics have accused it of being a vehicle for the country to improve its reputation as it faces criticism of its human rights record.
"PGA Tour's agreement with PIF regarding LIV Golf raises concerns about the Saudi government's role in influencing this effort and the risks posed by a foreign government entity assuming control over a cherished American institution," Blumenthal wrote.
A PGA Tour spokesperson said the tour is "confident that once Congress learns more about how the PGA Tour will control this new venture, they will understand the opportunities this will create for our players, our communities and our sport."
Monahan told senators in a June 9 letter confirmed by Reuters that the tour previously met with lawmakers about PIF's "attempt to take over the game of golf in the United States, and suggested ways that Congress could support us in these efforts."
He added in the letter first reported by Politico "while we are grateful for the written declarations of support we received from certain members, we were largely left on our own to fend off the attacks."
Monahan said under the deal "the PIF has agreed to work within the existing golf ecosystem as a minority investor with the PGA Tour in full control."
Last week, Senator Ron Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said U.S. officials should determine whether the deal would give the Saudis "improper control or access to U.S. real estate."
(Reporting by David Shepardson, Rami Ayyub and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Richard Chang)