Judge denies LIV Golf request to expand discovery to Augusta members
A federal judge denied a request by LIV Golf to expand discovery in its antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour to include communication with 10 Augusta National members, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
LIV Golf had issued subpoenas to five PGA Tour board members and Tim Finchem, the retired PGA Tour commissioner. It wanted all communications between them and “any member of Augusta National” relating to a new tour, but not limited to LIV Golf, the Saudi-funded rival league that launched last year.
In a redacted filing last week, LIV Golf alleged Rice and Arkansas banking executive Warren Stephens “apparently attempted to influence” the Justice Department not to investigate the PGA Tour.
LIV Golf also alleged Stephens was “apparently asked by tour employees” to push Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, to lobby against LIV.
In her ruling Monday, U.S. Magistrate Susan van Keulen said LIV Golf’s request for 10 additional Augusta National members and the Masters Committee “is overly burdensome on the Subpoenaed Parties and not in proportion to the needs of the litigation.”
Communication with the additional 10 members would have gone beyond what she described as “agreed-upon targets.” Those were four Augusta National employees, including Chairman Fred Ridley, and seven members. The members include Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, which owns Golf Channel.
LIV Golf attorneys argued in last week’s filing that part of the PGA Tour’s attempt to snuff out competition from the new tour was to threaten players, other tours, broadcasters, vendors and any other third party if they worked with LIV Golf.
“Discovery has shown that the tour delivered these threats not only through its own executives and employees, but by dispatching other influential persons on its behalf,” LIV Golf attorneys wrote in the filing.
The judge said any connection based on the documents LIV Golf cited is “highly speculative.”
“The cited documents do not implicate in any way the Subpoenaed Parties,” she wrote in her order. “Nor do they reflect communications by or between the identified additional targets. Indeed, for the most part, the identified targets appear merely as names on lists or in other oblique references made by others.”
Tour attorneys previously had argued that LIV Golf accusations of the tour leaning on Augusta National to block LIV Golf players from competing in the Masters was baseless because the Masters announced in December that everyone eligible would be able to play.
The 16 LIV Golf players eligible for the Masters include Bryson DeChambeau, who remains one of three players still listed as a plaintiff in the antitrust lawsuit.