WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two officials from the PGA Tour go before a Senate panel on Tuesday to defend the U.S.-based golf tour’s decision to end a rivalry with the Saudi-backed LIV circuit and form a unified commercial entity.

Ron Price, chief operating officer of the PGA Tour, and board member Jimmy Dunne are to testify before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said Senator Richard Blumenthal, chair of the committee, and Ron Johnson, the top Republican.

The LIV Golf series is bankrolled by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF). Critics have accused it of being a vehicle for the country to improve its reputation, or “sports-washing,” as it faces criticism of its human rights record, including the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as its record on women’s rights and gay rights.

Price said in an opinion piece published before the hearing that the agreement between the PGA Tour and LIV was not a merger, and that the PIF was a “non-controlling, minority investor.” He did not say what percentage of the PGA Tour would be owned by the PIF own.

Saudi Arabia’s PIF governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, will be the chairman of the new entity, called NewCo in the framework, while PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan will serve as CEO.

Price said the PGA Tour would have a controlling interest in the board.

Blumenthal has asked the PGA and LIV for communications and records on their planned deal, citing concerns about the Saudi government’s role in the deal and risks posed by a foreign government entity assuming control over the sport.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz in Washington and Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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