Dubai Desert Classic loses sponsor amid Chris Kirchner fallout

The fallout from Chris Kirchner’s suspension by the American logistics firm Slync has spread into golf, with the Dubai Desert Classic having lost its title sponsor. Slync agreed a multi-year deal for the competition, starting in 2022, but the contract has now been ended after controversy involving Kirchner, the one-time bidder for Derby County.

“We have reached an agreement with Slync regarding the termination of their agreements with us for various DP World Tour assets, including the Dubai Desert Classic title sponsorship,” said a spokesperson for the DP World Tour. “The tournament will continue to be part of the Rolex Series and we look forward to the 2023 edition from January 26-29 at Emirates Golf Club.”

Kirchner, formerly Slync’s chair and chief executive, played in the pro-am alongside Rory McIlroy at this year’s Desert Classic. He appeared in the same environment when LIV Golf made its debut at the Centurion Club in June. Around that time, he was making headlines for his pursuit of Derby which duly fell through. It was reported by Forbes in late July that Kirchner had been suspended amid claims of staff going unpaid. Kirchner, who owned his own private jet, launched Slync in 2017 with the company valued at $240m when securing funding from Blumberg Capital and Goldman Sachs.

Albeit the DP World Tour would clearly like to coax a new sponsor, it is telling that it appears relaxed about hosting the next Desert Classic – complete with $8m prize fund – from existing resource. When the French Open lost its main sponsor, the Chinese HNA Group, after 2018 the tournament no longer had Rolex Series status with the purse slashed accordingly. Debate about the financial strength of the DP World Tour has been the natural consequence of the Saudi Arabian-backed LIV’s move into the sport yet, in recent days, the Tour’s chief executive, Keith Pelley, launched a robust defence of its current position.

Justin Rose was announced as a Slync ambassador last summer but, notably, did not wear the company’s branding during the weekend’s PGA Championship at Wentworth. Other golfers who had deals with the company include Viktor Hovland, Erik van Rooyen, Jennifer Kupcho, Bernd Wiesberger, Sepp Straka, Albane Valenzuela, and Xinjin Zhang. Slync have not replied to the Guardian’s request for comment. The DP World Tour is due to release a 2023 schedule in the coming weeks, with major alterations planned for 2024.