Adidas boss says LIV Golf a ‘normal evolution,’ wants to focus on player partnerships

Phil Mickelson of the U.S. during the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational at the Centurion Club, Hemel Hempstead, St Albans, Britain, June 8, 2022

Paul Childs | Action Images via Reuters

Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted believes the controversial Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf series is part of a “normal evolution” of the sport and said the German sportswear giant will continue to focus on partnerships with individual players.

The PGA Tour has suspended many of its big names over their participation in the breakaway competition, which is in its inaugural season and has caused friction throughout the golfing world after attracting players with enormous fees.

LIV is being bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and critics accuse the series of serving to enhance the kingdom’s image despite persistent concerns about human rights violations and potential ties to 9/11 plotters.

The PGA Tour now faces an antitrust lawsuit from 11 players who joined the LIV series, including Phil Mickelson and Ian Poulter, over their suspension from the traditional North American tour.

Golfing legend and 15-time major champion Tiger Woods turned down an offer in the region of $700 million to $800 million to join LIV Golf, its CEO revealed on Monday, having voiced his disapproval of the series at last month’s Open Championship.

Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Thursday following Adidas’ quarterly earnings report, Rorsted said no decision had yet been made on whether the company would sponsor a team in the LIV series.

Asked for his opinion on the rebel tour, he said: “We think it is a normal evolution that is going on, and eventually it is the bodies who need to decide what they do. We have the same conversation when you look upon the Champions League or the World Cup with UEFA or FIFA.”

Rorsted added that Adidas wants to “remain a sponsor of the individual.”

“We have a very strong point of view of the players, and in essence, we want to make certain that we partner with the best player — we think that is how easy that is.”

Adidas on Thursday posted a 28% year-on-year decline in operating profit for the second quarter, as a suspension of business in Russia, higher supply chain costs and Covid-19 lockdowns in China dented earnings despite continued strength in North America.

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