New York Times
By Karen Crouse
June 1, 2016
Donald J. Trump sustained a notable defeat Wednesday when the World Golf Championships event held at a course he owns outside Miami was moved to Mexico City. The PGA Tour announced that it was ending a 54-year relationship with Doral, which Trump bought in 2012 and spent $250 million renovating, because it could not find a sponsor to replace Cadillac, whose contract ran out this year.
The tournament is expected to be played at Club de Golf Chapultepec and will be renamed the Mexico Championship after the tour reached a seven-year agreement with Grupo Salinas, a collection of Mexico City-based companies overseen by the billionaire Ricardo Salinas and his son, Benjamin.
Tim Finchem, the PGA Tour commissioner, said the move had nothing to do with the politics of Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, whose statements about Muslims, Mexicans and women have had a polarizing effect on many people, both inside and outside golf. Last December, the tour was moved to release a statement in response to Trump’s rhetoric, denouncing his comments as inconsistent with the sport’s commitment to creating an inclusive environment.
“From a golf standpoint, we have no issues with Donald Trump,” Finchem said at a news conference at Muirfield Village, site of the Memorial Tournament, which starts Thursday. “From a political standpoint, we are neutral.”
Finchem allowed that the Trump brand, built on his real estate dealings and aggrandized by his reality television shows and other entrepreneurial forays, presented a problem for would-be sponsors.
“It’s just a struggle to get a customer to spend those kinds of dollars and share the billing,” Finchem said. “So I think, actually, the difficulty there is more that and less the politics.” He added, “And he knows that.”
The tour chose a partner, Salinas, who settled a lawsuit brought by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission in 2006. Salinas agreed to pay $7.5 million in penalties and compensation to settle accusations of fraud involving a scheme to conceal a deal between a TV Azteca subsidiary and a cellphone company secretly owned by Salinas. The settlement, in which Salinas neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing, prohibited him for five years from serving as executive or director of any publicly listed United States company.
“We concluded that, given all the facts, it should not be something that would preclude us to do this particular transaction and all of its elements,” Finchem said.
The partnership with Salinas was announced less than two weeks after the World Golf Hall of Fame member Phil Mickelson, agreed to pay restitution to the S.E.C. after it was revealed that he had earned $1 million as a result of a stock tip he received from Billy Walters, a friend and avid golfer.
Mickelson, who faces no criminal charges, said Wednesday that he had to be responsible for the people he associated with. “I just think that I just need to be more careful, because as a representative of companies, which I take a lot of pride in, those relationships mean a lot to me, and I need to make sure that I represent them, as well as myself, in the best possible way,” he said.
Trump broke the news of the tour’s separation from Doral on Tuesday night in an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity and added, “I hope they have kidnapping insurance,” a reference to a spate of abductions of high-profile sportsmen, including the Mexican national soccer team member Alan Pulido, who was rescued.
On Wednesday, Trump released a statement in which he described it as a sad day and added: “No different than Nabisco, Carrier and so many other American companies, the PGA Tour has put profit ahead of thousands of American jobs, millions of dollars in revenue for local communities and charities and the enjoyment of hundreds of thousands of fans who make the tournament an annual tradition.
“This decision only further embodies the very reason I am running for President of the United States.”
Rory McIlroy, the former world No. 1 from Northern Ireland, did not sound bothered by the relocation to Mexico of the World Golf Championship event, which was won this year by the Australian Adam Scott. In 2015-16, three of the four World Golf Championships events are being held in the United States — at Doral; Austin, Tex.; and Akron, Ohio. The fourth is in China.
“I always felt that having three of them in the United States wasn’t really spreading the game,” said McIlroy, who poked fun at the fact the event was being moved to Mexico, as Trump has promised to build a wall to keep people from entering the United States illegally.
“It’s quite ironic that we’re going to Mexico after being at Doral,” McIlroy said jokingly. “We just jump over the wall.”
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