Nintendo of America is planning to sell its majority interest in the Seattle Mariners, the company announced Wednesday.
Nintendo of America will retain a 10 percent stake in the club, with the remainder of its holdings sold to other members of First Avenue Entertainment LLLP, a limited partnership which owns the Mariners and a majority interest in the regional sports network ROOT Sports Northwest, the Mariners said in a press release.
The team was valued at $1.4 billion.
The deal must first be approved by Major League Baseball, which will likely happen in August.
Former Nintendo Chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi purchased the team in 1992, and passed day-to-day control to Nintendo of America in 2004. Yamauchi died of pneumonia in 2013.
Howard Lincoln, former chairman of Nintendo of America and the Mariners’ current chairman and CEO, will step down from his position as part of the sale. John Stanton, who has minority shares in the team, will replace Lincoln.
“From the first day of our involvement nearly 24 years ago, Nintendo has had two goals for its investment in the Mariners,” Lincoln said in the team’s press release. “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.”
The move comes a day after Nintendo Co. said its group net profit fell 60.6 percent, in the 2015 business year ended last month, to ¥16.51 billion ($139.5 million), according to Kyodo News.
The Mariners have had strong ties to Japan since Yamauchi, and later Nintendo of America, assumed control of the team. Since 2001, the team has featured a number of Japanese stars, most notably Ichiro Suzuki, MLB’s first everyday position player from Japan. Ichiro is an MLB superstar who many expect to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame after his retirement. The club also featured Japan’s first full-time MLB catcher in Kenji Johjima, who spent four years with Seattle.
Ichiro represented the Mariners at the MLB All-Star Game 10 times, while famed former reliever Kazuhiro Sasaki made two appearances and pitchers Shigetoshi Hasegawa and Hisashi Iwakuma have one apiece.
Iwakuma, who threw a no-hitter for the Mariners last season, was scheduled to start Wednesday’s home game against the Houston Astros. Outfielder Norichika Aoki is also currently on the roster, but was not in the lineup Wednesday.
The Mariners have been starved for success on the field despite having employed players such as Ichiro, Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Felix Hernandez and Randy Johnson among others. The team’s current playoff drought stretches back to 2001, when Ichiro was named American League MVP and Rookie of the Year, and the team tied the MLB record with 116 wins.
“Giving back to our community is embedded in the DNA of the Seattle Mariners organization,” Lincoln said in a news conference in Seattle that was aired on the team’s official website.
The departing CEO also addressed the team’s fans.
“You’ve stuck with us in the good times and not-so-good times,” he said. “We all have the same goal, get this team back to the playoffs and bring the World Series to Seattle. It’s a goal that’s eluded us until now, but I’m confident we will ultimately achieve that goal.”
Stanton, who described himself as a fan of the Seattle Pilots, who moved to Milwaukee to become the Brewers in 1970, growing up, says the new ownership’s priority will be to get the team back to prominence.
“I want to make clear that the No. 1 goal of this ownership team is to win a World Series,” Stanton said during the news conference. “We want to win a World Series here in Seattle and have a parade and celebration for that event.”
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