There is what amounts to a clandestine consulting company here in the good old US of A that has been secretly working with Saudi Arabia for the past 70 years and the New York Times has been trying its best to shed dim light on McKinsey and Company and its low-key profile and discretion when it comes to collecting big fees from authoritarian regimes — i.e. — The Saudis.
What’s really weird and what sets McKinsey and Company apart from other “consulting” companies is its insistence that it not be acknowledged for its work. McKinsey clients often agree not to publicly disclose the fact that they hired McKinsey. Part of what the firm is selling is credit for its ideas, in addition to the ideas themselves.
Recently McKinsey came under fire because it may have, inadvertently, had a hand in the Saudi government’s harsh treatment of its critics. The aforementioned New York Times reported on October 20th, 2018, that Crown Prince MBS (Mohammad bin Salman) had his operatives harass dissidents — including the now-deceased (allegedly murdered on Oct. 2, 2018) Washington Post correspondent Jamal Khashoggi.
The New York Times article also included the the fact that McKinsey and Company had prepared a nine-page report measuring the public perception of certain Saudi economic policies, and cited three individuals who were driving much of the largely negative coverage on Twitter, and named a Saudi Arabia-based writer named Khalid al-Alkami, a Saudi national living in Canada named Omar Abdulaziz, and another anonymous writer. After the report was created, Al-Alkami was arrested, and Abdulaziz’s brothers living in Saudi Arabia were put in prison. The anonymous Twitter channel was shut down.
So by now you’re probably asking — what does all this have to do with golf?
Last week the New York Times wrote about how it was in receipt of confidential documents that showed a McKinsey and Company proposal made in 2021 for the Saudis called “Project Wedge.”
The Times article revealed that said “Project Wedge” outlined a number of scenarios for the Saudi golf venture that ultimately launched in June 2022 and became known as LIV Golf. According to this Times story, the documents revealed some benchmarks for success and the “need to sign each of the world’s top 12 golfers, attract sponsors to an unproven product and land television deals for a sport with declining viewership—all without significant retaliation from the PGA Tour that it would be plundering.”
As we all know, LIV Golf did make its best effort to “plunder” the PGA Tour but it didn’t come close to those benchmarks set forth in “Project Wedge.”
But wait there’s more.
The cloak-and-dagger folks at McKinsey projected possible outcomes for LIV Golf.
Outcome No.1: It would be a struggling start-up, co-existence with the PGA Tour with dominance over the game. In its most successful endgame, LIV Golf would have projected revenue of at least $1.4 billion a year in 2028.
We know that ain’t happening.
What we’ve really got is outcome No. 2 as McKinsey stated: “A league mired in start-up status—defined as attracting less than half of the world’s top 12 players, navigating a ‘lack of excitement from fans,’ reeling from limited sponsorships and confronting ‘severe response from golf society.’” McKinsey said that scenario stood to lose $355 million, before interest and taxes, in 2028.
But wait, this gets even better.
McKinsey suggested that LIV give serious thought to assembling a board of directors that would include: Michael Jordan, Condoleezza Rice, Mark Parker (Nike executive chairman), Ginni Rometty (former IBM chief executive) and Randall Stephenson (former AT&T chairman and member of the PGA Tour Policy Board).
Not even The Lamest Commissioner In All The Land (aka Greg Norman) would have the lack of common sense to even pitch LIV participation to the aforementioned power-hitters.
Yes, going after McKinsey is nothing new for The New York Times. Times writers Walt Bogadanich and Michael Forsythe put out a book titled: “When McKinsey Comes To Town.” Suffice to say it does not paint a flattering picture of the company.
More secret stuff is bound to come out as this LIV lawsuit against the PGA Tour progresses.
Already the PGA Tour has sought to depose some of the Saudi Secret Squirrels, if you will, and the Saudis are adamant about not allowing that, citing “sovereign immunity.”
Yeah, those “Sovereign Saudis” have no desire whatsoever to raise their right hands and swear to “tell the truth.”
Now those folks at McKinsey and Company? Well, there’s nothing “sovereign” about them.