By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor
With large investors trying to create a lucrative pro golf league featuring the world’s biggest names, New York City attorney Edward Herlihy, a Glens Falls native, is in the thick of international intrigue, reports the New York Post.
The Professional Golfers Association pretty much has a lock on pro golf in the U.S., but a fund owned by the government of Saudi Arabia is trying to lure top world pros to a proposed big money super league, with Australian great Greg Norman as the face of the effort.
Leading golfers including Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Rory Mcilroy indicated they won’t go.
But Phil Mickelson lost his long-time sponsor KPMG because he indicated openness to the Saudi initiative, which critics call a “sports washing” attempt to improve the regime’s image after its apparent role in the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Now a second league option has been proposed that organizers hope would be more palatable.
The New York Post said it “learned exclusively…that the PGA Tour was presented an alternative league opportunity in recent months that would squash the threat of the Saudi league and its controversial endless supply of ‘sports washing’ money. But, according to three independent sources with intimate knowledge of the proceedings, the PGA Tour squashed the alternative concept.”
That’s where Mr. Herlihy entered the story. The Post said the PGA showed interest in the second proposed league, but that it was “shot down by Herlihy, a powerful corporate attorney” and the chairman of the PGA Tour’s Policy Board.
The Post said the plan envisioned the new league being half-owned by the players and half-owned by the investor but that Mr. Herlihy said, “If it’s not 100 percent owned and controlled by the PGA Tour, it will be viewed as hostile.’’
“Also of note,” wrote The Post, “is that Herlihy is one of the most powerful members at Augusta National, creating the specter of potential collusion and/or conflict of interest should the club opt to ban players involved in non-PGA Tour-sanctioned events from playing in the Masters — even if they were qualified.”
The fear that golfers who join an unauthorized league could be banned from the four “majors” — Britain’s Open, the U.S. Open, the PGA and the Masters — is said to loom large in pro golfers’ minds.
Mr. Herlihy, a 1965 graduate of Glens Falls High School, became one of the top mergers and acquisitions attorneys in the country at the New York law firm Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz.
The Wall Street Journal wrote in 2008, as the financial industry navigated its worst crisis since the Depression, a team led by Mr. Herlihy advised on “more than $73 billion of deals” that year, including Bank of America’s $44.7 billion acquisition of Merrill Lynch…and Wells Fargo’s $15.1 billion acquisition of Wachovia, as stronger institutions bought ones that faltered, often with government aid.
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