The rumblings in recent weeks have been met with an understandable: “Yes, that’s a nice rumor but Seth doesn’t need that job or want it,” the power players would say when Seth Waugh was suggested as the leading candidate to become PGA of America CEO.
Now that the former Deutsche Bank CEO and current PGA of America advisory board member has been officially announced as Pete Bevacqua’s replacement, the question will still be asked: why is an executive of his prowess, reputation, bank account and career arc taking on this position?
Or, to put it less-tactfully, why would a 60-year-old with ten club memberships, a net worth of $80 million, expensive homes in nice places and golf’s most glorious tan/hair combo want to hear from 29,000 members about their excessive dues? Or, more alarmingly, report to a Grand Jury-sized board that forcefully condemns social media dust-ups but supports drunk drivers in leadership positions?
His love of golf is well established
Deutsche Bank built an incredible tour event in Boston in short time under his watch, one that sadly (and ironically) dies this week under the Dell Technologies banner due to changes in the PGA Tour schedule and post-2008 priority changes for his former employer.
He’s tight with Jay Monahan
Waugh was tight with former CEO Bevacqua, has been/continues to be a mentor to current PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, and at 60 can only play so much golf. Also, this is an organization in the sport he loves, based (at least for now) near his winter home, seems like a wise way to stay in the game of dealmaking and keeps in him in the golf and business game.
He knows the PGA
He’s well versed in the PGA’s current issues and may see an opportunity to make a major deal. So, what is that mega-deal?
Well, what would be a fun, creative and utterly jaw-dropping collaborative negotiation that tickles the senses of a CEO like Waugh and allows him to work with people he likes (Waugh has a well-known no &**hole policy that does limit how many people in golf he can negotiate with)?
How about a stronger partnership with the PGA Tour? Or, more intriguingly, a merger?
Consider what currently sits before the PGA of America: an expiring television contract for the PGA Championship and a possible headquarters move to Frisco, Texas. Those are big ticket items that will shape the organization for decades to come and left by Pete Bevacqua for the next CEO when he moved to NBC Sports. Does Seth Waugh really take the PGA job to quibble with a Mark Lazarus or Sean McManus over commercial breaks-per-hour and then have a celebratory dinner when the deal is done? When he could be playing Cypress Point or Seminole or National Golf Links?
Probably not. But stranger things have happened.
And does a CEO of Waugh’s stature take a day job at this point in his life to fly to Frisco, Texas to hear about the amazing millennial-friendly townhouses they’ll be building and to help pick out LED lighting for a headquarters building?
Probably not. But stranger things have happened.
No, Seth Waugh taking the PGA of America job screams eventual merger. Or, “enhanced partnership,” though technically this will marriage number two for those who sell sweaters and those who get paid to wear logoed sweaters.
After all, they were married for a time and divorced in 1968. It wasn’t pretty but you know what they say, time heals all wounds.
A PGA of America & PGA Tour merger?
What would incentivize these two to get hitched?
Money, of course.
Let’s start with the easy issue: office space.
If the two organizations joined forces, here’s betting the PGA Tour could find room in their new Foster-designed headquarters. It’s not Palm Beach, but it’s also not Frisco for the PGA of America staff who would still like to serve the members and keep their jobs in a place where palm trees don’t wilt. There would undoubtedly be consolidation on some fronts, though the PGA of America is a pretty lean operation.
But here’s where a merger makes sense: power, money and branding.
Rights to PGA of America’s PGA Championship expire for CBS in 2019. The PGA Tour’s rights expire in 2021 with the networks and Golf Channel. It is no secret that the PGA Tour would like its own channel or an ownership stake in NBC’s Golf Channel. They passed up that opportunity when the current deal was negotiated but these two entities begin a new streaming partnership in 2019 for PGA Tour Live.
Currently, two major media corporations have shown a love of golf and content: Comcast and AT&T, headed by two CEO’s – Brian Roberts of Comcast and Randal Stephenson of AT&T – are both Augusta National members who sign big checks in golf and are lodged in megadeal madness to expand their companies.
How does a stronger partnership serve the PGA Tour and PGA of America members?
The deal would give the PGA Tour ownership of a major championship and partial ownership of the Ryder Cup. A deal would put an end to the meaningless but vanity-destroying confusion over PGA Tour vs. PGA of America. And most of all, such a partnership would further convince one of those two media companies to respect their position in the form of dollars in some way. The PGA of America’s members will have to get something out of all of this, but what that would be, remains unclear.
How does a possible merger serve the fans?
I haven’t a clue. But none of the above-mentioned power players hopes to be in golf for the next few decades only to get on the bad side of consumers and to scare off subscribers. They want to make money, make deals and extend their reach. They like golf.
Still, mergers of non-profits (haruumph!) should deliver something tangible and exciting. And that’s why Seth Waugh’s decision to take the CEO job could lead to some big and compelling moves.