The Washington Post reported that former AT&T chairman Randall Stephenson resigned as a member of the PGA Tour policy board due to concerns over the tour's proposed partnerships with Saudi Arabia's National Wealth Fund.
In a message to its members, the PGA Tour confirmed Stephenson's resignation. The memo referred to Stephenson's exemplary service for more than twelve years.
Stephenson will retire as Chairman and CEO of AT&T on June 30, 2020.
The Post reported that it had obtained a copy his letter dated Saturday, in which he said that the framework agreement for the tour with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund was not something he could objectively evaluate and support in good conscience. This is especially true in light of an intelligence report by the U.S. concerning Jamal Khashoggi from 2018.
Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, 2018. He was a Washington Post contributor and a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. U.S. Intelligence concluded that the crown prince probably approved the killing. The crown prince denies this.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan shocked the entire golfing world, including his own members, when he announced a partnership on June 6, with the PIF. The PIF had funded the rival league LIV Golf as part of antitrust suits.
The Justice Department is currently reviewing the agreement. It still needs PGA Tour board approval.
Monahan, the PIF Governor, would become the CEO, and Yasir al-Rumayyan would be the chairman of the company. Al-Rumayyan would also have a seat in the PGA Tour Board, although the PGA was assured that they would always be able to have a majority of votes.
Stephenson had said that he would resign by June 12. However, Monahan left the office due to a medical problem. Monahan announced on Friday that he will return to work July 17.
Stephenson wrote in his letter: 'I joined the board 12 years ago in order to serve the top players in the golfing world and to spread the virtues instilled by the game of Golf.' Stephenson wrote in his letter: "I hope that as this board moves on, it will rethink the governance model and be open to evaluating alternative sources of funding beyond the current framework contract."
Five players and five independent members make up the PGA Tour Board. Two of the members are Ed Herlihy, board chairman, and Jimmy Dunne who negotiated with Monahan over a period of seven weeks.
Mary Meeker is a venture capitalist and Mark Flaherty is an investment manager.
The resignation came three days before Dunne, and Ron Price, tour COO, were to testify in front of a Congressional Subcommittee, which wanted more information on the partnership between PGA Tour, and the Saudi Wealth Fund.
According to the bylaws of the tour, four independent directors will choose Stephenson's replacement after consulting the five board members and John Lindert the PGA of America President, who is a non voting board member.
No time limit is set for filling the position.