The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers executive hired to be the chief operating officer of LIV Golf has resigned after one year as the Saudi-backed rival circuit moves toward a league format, The New York Times reported.
Atul Khosla was expected to lead LIV Golf into its franchise model of 12 four-man teams in which players and the LIV Golf League would have equity.
Players and agents were told earlier this week Khosla intended to step down. LIV commissioner Greg Norman confirmed the news Friday in a statement to The Times.
“At the conclusion of LIV’s successful inaugural season, Atul Khosla decided to move on,” Norman said. “We respect A.K. and his personal decision.”
LIV Golf did not immediately respond to an Associated Press email seeking comment.
The rival league is funded by the Saudi Arabia sovereign wealth fund and has attracted top names like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and British Open champion Cameron Smith with signing fees upward of $100 million.
It plans a 14-event schedule for 2023 and already has announced seven sites, three of them previous PGA Tour venues. LIV officials have indicated they plan to announce more players, though none have been announced.
A New York Times report on Sunday, involving the review of hundreds of pages of confidential documents, included an outside consulting firm’s outlook on the path to financial success for a rival league.
The benchmark for success was to sign each of the world’s top 12 players, get sponsors and a television deal, all while not facing retaliation from the PGA Tour. This was in 2021 and the plan was called “Project Wedge.” The Times reported it was the foundation for what became LIV Golf.
Smith was the only player currently in the top 10 who has signed with LIV Golf. It still does not have a TV contract and it now is the lead plaintiff in an antitrust lawsuit with the PGA Tour, which has suspended all players who signed with the Saudi-funded league.
Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods have said Norman needs to be out of the picture for golf to be able to overcome its fractured state. Norman responded McIlroy and Woods have “no idea what they’re talking about.”
He told British-based Bunkered magazine, “I have got the full support from my chairman. One hundred percent. One thousand percent. There has never been one thing to suggest otherwise. But I know what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to bait me to draw me into a public back and forth with them and I’m not going to go down that childish path.”
Norman also told the magazine he met with Justin Thomas and said he and other stars who have spoken out against LIV were welcome to join.
“I mean, we talked to JT. Me and another member of my team, we sat down with him and gave him the full presentation and, if you notice, he’s not said much negative about what we’re doing, presumably because he knows it and understands it,” Norman said.
Thomas told The Associated Press the meeting was some time ago before the league became a reality and that it was with a LIV Golf representative. “I didn’t even know he (Norman) was coming. He just came.”
“I felt like I needed to know everything that was going on,” Thomas said. “I went into it with a very good idea what I was going to do, but it wouldn’t be smart for any person to at least not hear what was going on.”
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