Nintendo of America will sell its majority stake in the Seattle Mariners baseball franchise, ending nearly a quarter century of ownership and an administration that saved the team from relocation in the 1990s.
Nintendo of America will retain a 10 percent stake in the team while selling the rest of its shares to the other members of the limited partnership that make up the Mariners' ownership group, the company announced in a news release this afternoon.
The sale means Howard Lincoln, the former chairman of Nintendo of America, will step down as the Mariners chairman and CEO.
"From the first day of our involvement nearly 24 years ago, Nintendo has had two goals for its investment in the Mariners," said Howard Lincoln. "First, we wanted to assure the permanence of the team in this great city. And on that count, I am proud and gratified that this agreement further solidifies that goal. On the other hand, I'm equally disappointed that we have not been able to host a World Series game for our fans."
Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi bought the club for $125 million. It's now valued at $1.4 billion
Lincoln had long been the ownership representative of the late Hiroshi Yamauchi, the third president of Nintendo who bought the team in 1992. Yamauchi bought the club as a goodwill gesture toward the citizens of Seattle, who had been good neighbors to Nintendo of America, based in Redmond, Wash.
At the time, Seattle's former owner had been looking to move the club to Tampa Bay, unable to come up with a solution for a stadium to replace the obsolete and unattractive Kingdome.
However, it also made Seattle the first MLB franchise to have non-North American ownership, and Yamauchi's bid was originally opposed by the league. At one point Yamauchi himself was required to have fewer than 50 percent of the voting interest in the Mariners, though his stake later expanded to 55 percent.
Yamauchi transferred his ownership to Nintendo of America in 2004. When he died in 2013, MLB's then-commissioner Bud Selig lauded him for playing a pivotal role in preserving the league's presence in the Pacific Northwest. In 1995, the Washington state legislature passed a funding bill that led to the creation of Safeco Field, where the Mariners play today.
Under the majority ownership of Yamauchi and later Nintendo, the Mariners won all three of their divisional titles and made all four of their postseason appearances to date. The club also signed several star from the Japanese leagues, including future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki, who set a major league record for most hits in a season in 2004. The Mariners won 116 games in the 2001 season, setting the American League record and tying the major leagues' record for most victories in a season.
The sale of Nintendo's stake will be based on an overall valuation of the Mariners at $1.4 billion. Yamauchi acquired the team for $125 million in 1992.