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Atul Khosla, COO of LIV Golf, quits Saudi-backed league

Atul Khosla, the veteran sports executive who was to guide LIV Golf into the franchise model on which it has staked its viability, has resigned from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund-funded business in a challenge to the PGA Tour.

Khosla’s exit, just over a year after LIV announced his appointment as COO, comes as the startup struggles to gain traction and, according to confidential information reported by the New York Times this week is far from hitting the benchmarks. that would be success.

LIV did not immediately comment on Friday, days after players and agents were privately told Khosla intended to step down.

Khosla is not the first senior official to leave LIV this year, and the outfit has faced open questions over the future of its commissioner, Greg Norman, a two-time British Open winner and outspoken critic of the PGA Tour’s design. . But as a departure from Norman threatened to rob LIV of one of the most familiar and time-tested voices in men’s golf, Khosla was increasingly seen as LIV’s most essential leader in charting the way forward. and was deeply proud of his work.

At the same time, suspicions about the true extent of his power swirled in the weeks leading up to his departure from LIV. In a recent court filing, the PGA Tour accused the governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, as the wealth fund is officially known, of having an outsized role in managing a deal that attracted a handful of the world’s best players, including Dustin Johnson. , Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Cameron Smith.

But even with the defections of these players and a few others from the PGA Tour, LIV hasn’t secured the television and sponsorship deals that are a cornerstone of top-level professional sports. Such deals were seen by consultants McKinsey & Company, in an analysis prepared privately for Saudi officials last year, as critical to the new league’s prospects of success.

Additionally, LIV fell short of other milestones identified by McKinsey as crucial to achieving even “co-existence” with the PGA Tour, including signing most of the world’s top 12 golfers and facing to a “null/moderate response” from the golf establishment.

LIV, however, insisted that it remains on track as it moves towards a system in which its teams will act as franchises. In a statement to The Times last week, Jonathan Grella, a spokesperson for LIV, said he “has made it clear on multiple occasions that our stakeholders take a long-term approach to our business model.”

“Despite the many obstacles put in our way by the PGA Tour, we are thrilled with the success of our year of beta testing,” said Grella. “And we are confident that over the next few seasons the remaining elements of our business model will materialize as planned. Our business plan is built on the path to profitability. We have a nice long runway and we’re taking off.

A week later, news of Khosla’s departure became public.

Source : Nouvelles du Jour