Will our St. Johns County tax dollars be spent for 25 years, from 2024 to 2049, to subsidize the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its investment fund, controlled by terrorist and murderer Mohammad bin Salman, who ordered the murder of a Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi? Saudi Arabia's LIV Golf has agreed to merge with the Ponte Vedra based PGA TOUR, INC.
Commencing in FY' 2024, St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners will award the PGA TOUR, INC. some $16,778,760 in "incentives." Estimated annual payout: $671,150. It's our money.
The St. Augustine Record reported in 2021 that this was the County's largest-ever incentive payment.
Minutes reflect that then-Commissioner Jeb S. Smith alone voted against the $16,778,760 in "incentives." Commissioner Smith objected to the 25 year term of the contract, 21 years longer than the County ever agreed to, and quoted an article about golfers leaving PGA TOUR, INC., but his concerns were given short shrift. Before 2021 was over, Commissioner Smith resigned, accepting a position to lead the Florida Farm Bureau. He was understood to lack confidence in his colleagues after the PGA TOUR, INC. vote.
Then-Chairman JEREMIAH RAY BLOCKER and Commissioners I. Henry Dean, Paul Waldron and Christian Whitehurst all slavishly supported Resolution 2021-217. All five are Republicans.
During the public hearing on the PGA TOUR, INC., Ms. B.J. Kalaidi and I both spoke against this proposal in public comment on May 18, 2021. Minutes state:
(10:44 a.m.) Ed Slavin, P.O. Box 3084, requested to deny the application as a contract violation [of] public policy, stating that the contract was poorly drafted and had no non- discrimination provision.
(10:47 a.m.) BJ Kalaidi, 8 Newcomb Street, voiced her concerns with the incentives and spoke in opposition of the agreement. She said that ex parte communications should have been given on the item.
(10:50 a.m.) McCormack noted that ex parte communications were required for quasi- judicial items and not executive Board actions.
Documents were prepared on a ROGERS TOWERS law firm computers, which gave the document the identifier, "JAX_3490221_3."
PGA TOUR, INC. lawyer was Ms. Ellen Avery-Smith.
PGA TOUR's chief legal officer is Leonard D. Brown.
PGA TOUR's "Owner's Representative" was controversial Atlanta developer and former St. Johns County Commissioner PHILIP MAYS, a close friend of former Governor CHARLES CRIST, who appointed MAYS to County Commission vacancy. MAYS and ROGERS TOWERS helped lobby for the funding of the County subsidy for the 150,000 square foot building.
St. Augustine resident B.J. Kalaidi asked for disclosure of ex parte contacts.But County Attorney Patrick Francis McCormack advised Commissioners that no disclosure of ex parte contacts was required because it was not a "quasi-judicial" matter. None of the Commissioners voluntarily disclosed their ex parte contacts.
And the band played on, with St. Johns County blowing $16,778,760 in "incentives" over 25 years to a putative non-profit that is now the monopolist controlling professional golf.
Thanks to our County's true fiscal conservative, then-Commissioner Jeb S. Smith for opposing this stinker.
In June 2023, PGA TOUR, INC. agreed to settle antitrust litigation with the Saudi-controlled LIV GOLF, owned by the SAUDI ARABIAN INVESTMENT FUND. The agreement provides for a merger.
The LIV GOLF-PGA TOUR, INC. merger may be "dead on arrival" as an antitrust violation. So said Baruch College law professor Marc Edelman in an article published by The Atlantic June 8, 2023.
In any event, St. Johns County Commission should direct that its staff investigate whether it would still be bound by its contract if the LIV GOLF-PGA TOUR, INC. merger becomes effective. The contract provides an out: "Section 21. Assignment. PGA TOUR may not assign or otherwise transfer its rights and duties under this Agreement. Should PGA TOUR assign or otherwise transfer its rights under this Agreement, this Agreement shall be automatically terminated. Nothing in this Section shall prevent PGA TOUR from assigning or otherwise transferring its rights and duties under this Agreement to an affiliate, subsidiary, or parent company of PGA TOUR."
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the government of the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia should not benefit from St. Johns County tax funds.
MBS is a murderer.
Wikipedia reports: "On 2 October 2018, Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident journalist was assassinated by agents of the Saudi government at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Khashoggi was ambushed and strangled by a 15-member squad of Saudi assassins. His body was dismembered and disposed of. Khashoggi's final moments were captured in audio recordings, transcripts of which were subsequently made public."
No comment yet from counsel for PGA TOUR, INC. or the spokesman for our St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners.
Read the 2022 State Department Country Report on the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, here.
- All contract discussions, negotiations, ex parte meetings and contacts and lobbying preceding or leading to St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners' 4-1 vote on May 18, 2021 for an unprecedented 25 year, $16.778 million incentive package for the PGA Tour, Inc.?
- Contract compliance, performance and negotiations documents?
- The proposed merger between the PGA Tour, INC. and LIV Golf, controlled by Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, the Crown Prince of the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?
- The County's communications and research about the PGA TOUR, INC/LIV GOLF merger proposal, antitrust violations, and possible remedies under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act and the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts?
- The County's communications and research about the County's post-merger possible antitrust injuries and remedies?
- The County's research on any novation or contract modification to name LIV GOLF as a party to the contract or a third party beneficiary?
- The County's research on possible cancellation of the contract, e.g., as a contract violation of public policy pursuant to Restatement of Contracts, 2d, Section 178?
- The County's research on the human rights record of the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including Marc 2, 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi, ordered by MBS?
- Ex parte contacts and lobbying of the County by ROBERS TOWERS, ELLEN AVERY-SMITH, PHIL MAYS, or anyone else, on the PGA TOUR, INC contract?
- Any thought, consideration or request to place the 25 year, $16.778 million "Incentive" Package and LIV GOLF MERGER PROPOSAL on the agenda of the June 20, 2023 County Commission meeting.
- Any St. Johns County Inspector General documents on PGA TOUR, INC.?
- Any documents on any past, present or proposed civil, criminal or administrative investigations of County staff, ROGERS TOWERS, PHIL MAYS, ROCAPOINT, et al. re: the St. Johns County Board of County Commissioners' PGA TOUR, INC. 25 year, $16.778 million "Incentive Package" and the potential effect on contract performance and expectations of the PGA TOUR, INC/LIV GOLF MERGER PROPOSAL?