Who Is Jimmy Dunne? PGA Tour Board Member Involved In PIF Merger

The PGA Tour board member was pivotal in agreeing the historic merger, but what is his background?

Jimmy Dunne takes a shot in a practice round prior to the 2022 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews
Jimmy Dunne has quickly risen to prominence as a board member of the PGA Tour
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The announcement of a historic merger between the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and the Public Investment Fund (PIF) that bankrolls LIV Golf appears set to take the game into uncharted territory, but who is responsible for the move?

Jimmy Dunne is an Independent Director on the PGA Tour’s board – a position he has held since November 2022. He hasn’t wasted much time making a potentially seismic influence on the organisation, either, as he has been pivotal in the agreement.

In fact, advising companies on mergers and acquisitions is second nature to Dunne as it’s something he’s had experience in his many years in business. In 1988, Dunne left Bear Stearns to become one of the founding members of Sandler O’Neill + Partners, a full-service investment banking company. It had huge success, and opened offices in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Atlanta and Chicago.

In 2019, the company was taken over by Piper Jaffrey and renamed Piper Sandler Companies, but Dunne stayed on as vice chairman and senior managing principal.

It was the earlier days of Sandler O’Neill + Partners that helped define Dunne’s life, though. Dunne, who is also a golfer, Augusta National member and president of Seminole, credits the game with saving his life. On 9/11 Dunne would have typically been in his office in the World Trade Center, but instead, he was trying to qualify for the US Mid-Amateur.

The straight-talking businessman has plenty of opinions on the game, too. In an interview with Sports Illustrated months before he took up his position on the PGA Tour, he was critical of LIV Golf.

After the governor of the PIF, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, suggested a $54m prize for any golfer who shoots 54, Dunne told the publication: “This is the guy that's running the event? I mean, come on. This is the head guy? That's like something you'd see on 'Saturday Night Live.' It's an exhibition, OK? There have been exhibitions. Gary and Jack did them all the time. That's what this is.”

It is Dunne’s success in business that was clearly noted, though, as, when he was appointed by the PGA Tour, commissioner Jay Monahan remarked he was a “key, trusted advisor at some of the largest, most impactful institutions” in the world.

That trust in Dunne has clearly not weakened during his time working with Monahan. In a media conference to outline details of the merger hours after it had been announced, Monahan said: “There were two prominent Policy Board members that sat side by side with me, our chairman Ed Herlihy as well as Jimmy Dunne, and ultimately we got to the point where we finalized everything last night and had a communications plan that we started first thing tomorrow.”

Jay Monahan and Jimmy Dunne at Seminole in 2020

Jay Monahan credits Jimmy Dunne with helping to agree the merger

(Image credit: Getty Images)

According to Monahan, Dunne was a lynchpin of those discussions reaching a satisfactory conclusion, and clearly his earlier comments on Al-Rumayyan didn’t stand in the way.

He revealed: “What changes was a very productive conversation that the chairman of our board in Jimmy Dunne had with Yasir and members of PIF where we were able and they were able to have a discussion about how we work together to grow the game, how we work together to grow the PGA Tour, and to really get an understanding and start building some trust as we pursued that.”

As well as his powers of negotiation in the boardroom, Dunne also counts many PGA Tour players as friends. To that end, he was even responsible for telling one of the biggest proponents of the PGA Tour, Rory McIlroy, about the deal.

Jimmy Dunne with Gerry McIlroy, Rory McIlroy and Danny Willett

Jimmy Dunne is close friends with many PGA Tour players

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Northern Irishman said: “I got a text message on Monday night, I guess. From Jimmy Dunne, saying, 'Hey can I give you a call in the morning.' So I said sure. Jimmy rang me at about 6:30 yesterday morning. We had a chat. Took me through the news. Took me through the deal, structure of the deal. What it meant for us. What it meant for the DP World Tour. So, yeah, I learned about it pretty much at the same time everyone else did."

The new entity will have an Executive Committee with Dunne serving on it. Considering his influence in getting the deal agreed, it seems likely he will remain a pivotal member of it as golf takes its giant leap into the future.

Jimmy Dunne: Key Facts

  • Dunne is a 65-year-old businessman
  • He helped found investment banking company Sandler O’Neill + Partners in 1988
  • He has three decades of experience of helping agree mergers and acquisitions
  • Dunne is a keen golfer and member of Augusta National
  • He was appointed as a new member of the PGA Tour board in 2022
  • Dunne was one of two PGA Tour representatives who helped agree the merger with the PIF
  • Bobby Axelrod from Showtime series Billions is loosely based on Dunne
Mike Hall
News Writer

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.