DUBLIN, Ohio – The PGA Tour’s departure from Trump National Doral has nothing to do with the resort’s owner, Donald Trump, Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said Wednesday.
The World Golf Championship event known as the Cadillac Championship is moving to Mexico City next year because a sponsor couldn’t be found to keep it South Florida, but one was found in Mexico. The new sponsor is Grupo Salinas, a conglomerate media and retail company run by founder Ricardo Salinas and his son, Benjamin.
Finchem met with media Wednesday afternoon before the Memorial Tournament to discuss the news. He wanted to stress the point that politics played no role in the move to leave behind a course that has held PGA Tour events since 1962 and that it was strictly a money decision. Finchem also said the Tour “is keen” to return to Doral with another event, possibly a regular PGA Tour event, “when the time is right.”
The Cadillac Championship had been held at Doral since 2007, and Cadillac had been the sponsor since 2011. Before that, the tournament was held at several different sites, including one-year stints in Spain, Ireland and England.
“We greatly appreciate everything that Cadillac, Trump National Doral and Donald Trump have done for the tournament,” Finchem said. “Cadillac has been a tremendous sponsor, and Donald has been a gracious host since taking over the property in 2013. His commitment to renovating the course and the Doral facility was especially appreciated by the Tour and its members.”
The course in Mexico City has yet to be officially named, but Finchem indicated that the field was pretty much narrowed to one, which he did not identify. Golf Channel reported that the 2017 event will be held at Club de Golf Chapultapec near Mexico City and sponsored by Grupo Salinas.
“Some of the reaction revolves around the feeling that this is a political exercise and it is not that in any way, shape or form,” Finchem said. “It is a sponsorship issue. We value dollars for our players. So we make decisions that are in the best interests of our players.”
Finchem said Trump was never a problem and the Tour likes what he’s done with some of his other properties, including Turnberry in Scotland and the Trump course in Bedminster, N.J. The big problem with finding a sponsor for an event at Doral or any Trump property, Finchem said, is Trump’s fame.
“Donald Trump is a brand, a big brand and when you’re asking a company to invest millions in branding a tournament and they’re going to share that brand with the host, it’s a difficult conversation,” he said. “We think the Bedminster club would be a terrific venue for a tournament but we haven’t been successful in moving a tournament that we rotate, our FedEx Cup playoff event. It’s just a struggle to get a customer to spend those kind of dollars and share the billing.”
Trump reacted to the news Tuesday night with a comment about the Tour needing kidnapping insurance for the move. Asked about that, Finchem responded, “One of our people told us this morning that we already have kidnapping insurance. I haven’t inquired about the details, but I made a point that it’s something we might not want to advertise.”
The new sponsor may or may not have its name in the tournament title. What drew the Tour to this group, Finchem said, was that the companies aren’t interested n the branding aspect of the sponsorship but in building golf in Mexico. That was appealing.
One interesting point of the new sponsor, Ricardo Salinas, is his stock-trading history, especially given last week’s news that tour player Phil Mickelson was not charged with insider stock trading in Dean Foods but did repay the $931,000 he earned plus interest, in relation to Mickelson’s association with Billy Walters, a professional gambler. (When asked about Mickelson’s situation, Finchem replied, “I have not spoken to him but I have no comment about anything else at this point in time.”)
Salinas was charged in 2005 by the Security & Exchange Commission in a complicated case of self-dealing in which he made a $109 million profit. In a settlement in which he didn’t admit guilt, Salinas paid a $7.5 million fine and was banned for five years from being the head of any U.S. listed company. He’s worth an estimated $8 billion.
Asked if the PGA Tour investigated Salinas and his SEC history, Finchem answered, “Yes, we did and we concluded that, given all the facts, it should not be something that would preclude us to do this particular transaction and all its elements.”