In addition to running Nintendo, Hiroshi Yamauchi, who passed away last Thursday at the age of 85, was widely credited with saving the Seattle Mariners when he bought a controlling stake of the baseball team in 1992. The Mariners then enjoyed popularity in the ‘90s behind Ken Griffey Jr. and in the early ‘00s behind fellow Japanese countryman Ichiro Suzuki, but the franchise has struggled in recent years, prompting questions of whether Nintendo of America, whom Yamauchi placed the team’s control under in 2004, would look to sell their stake now that the gaming visionary has passed on. According to Mariners chairman and CEO Howard Lincoln, the answer is no.
“There’s always speculation in times like this,” Lincoln told Biz Journal. “I think I can speak on behalf of Nintendo of America and say that Nintendo has no plans to sell its majority interest in the Mariners.”
Lincoln and Yamauchi enjoyed a long professional relationship prior to the latter’s passing. Before taking over the Mariners, Lincoln served on Nintendo’s board of directors from 1994-2000. He was also the gaming giant’s senior vice president when Yamauchi bought the Mariners in 1992, just before then-owner Jeff Smulyan was able to sell the team to a Florida-based ownership group who would have likely moved the team out of Seattle.
The decision to retain ownership of the Mariners is not surprising considering Yamauchi’s enduring commitment to the franchise and the level of reverence and respect current Nintendo executives had for the company’s late driving force. “I can tell you I have spoken to [current Nintendo head Tatsumi] Kimishima in Japan and there are no plans to sell [Nintendo of America’s] majority interest in the team,” Lincoln said.
“I can’t tell you what’s going to happen in the future,” he continued, “but now Nintendo feels very strongly that Nintendo wants to maintain its ownership interest in the Mariners.”