Nintendo is best known for making iconic video game characters and adventures, but a lesser-known fact about that popular video game company is that they have been the principal owners of a baseball team, the Seattle Mariners, since 1992. The late Hiroshi Yamauchi, who served as President of Nintendo for decades, purchased the baseball team in order to prevent them from having to leave the Seattle area, and they’ve belonged to Nintendo ever since.
However, shortly after Nintendo issued its annual earnings report, we learned that they
are selling their majority ownership of the team. After concluding his financial presentation, Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima explained the decision to sell the team (keeping only a 10% stake) to investors, while also highlighting Nintendo’s history with the team.
“Finally, about three hours ago, at Safeco Field which is the home for the MLB’s Seattle Mariners, Mr. Howard Lincoln, who is the CEO of the team and a board member of Nintendo of America Inc., announced the planned sale of its majority interest in the Seattle Mariners to other members of the team’s current ownership group. An agreement has been reached that Nintendo of America will retain a 10% stake in the team, while the remainder of its holdings will be sold to other members of First Avenue Entertainment LLLP, namely, to other existing minority owners of the team. First Avenue Entertainment LLLP is the limited partnership that owns the Seattle Mariners, and a majority interest in ROOT Sports NW. Closing the transaction is subject to the finalization of legal contracts and approval from Major League Baseball which is expected in August of this year. We will then close the sale and Mr. Lincoln will resign as the Mariners CEO.
“As many of you know, Nintendo of America Inc., which is headquartered in the Seattle area, was approached by local representatives in the early 1990s and invited to invest in the team, which was at risk of being moved away from the region. The late Hiroshi Yamauchi, at that time the president of Nintendo Co., Ltd., agreed to spend his own money to purchase the majority ownership of the team in order to show Nintendo’s appreciation to the U.S. for helping Nintendo do business in the country, and to contribute to the local residents and area. He became the principal owner of the team in 1992.
“Mr. Yamauchi passed away in 2013. Due consideration had been made before his death and his ownership had already been transferred to Nintendo of America in order to ensure the team would remain in the area. Then Mr. Satoru Iwata, who had been overseeing the team as the new president of Nintendo after Mr. Yamauchi, as well serving as the CEO of Nintendo of America, passed away last year. This sad occurrence, along with Mr. Lincoln’s desire to relinquish day-to-day leadership for the team, prompted this decision.
“As president and, then, the chairman of Nintendo of America, I personally observed the great efforts and contributions that Mr. Lincoln made during the past 17 years as the team’s CEO and the chairman. He worked to keep the team within the region and generated continued support from local residents. He has been a very reliable partner for me especially on the business affairs concerning the Mariners even after I returned to Japan and started working at Nintendo Co., Ltd. Now that Mr. Yamauchi and Mr. Iwata have passed away, and Mr. Lincoln has shown his desire to retire as CEO of the team, and especially because we can be now certain that the team will remain in the region and can grow, Nintendo of America has negotiated a sale of its majority interest to the current minority owners.
“Since the subject sales profit has not been incorporated into the annual financial forecast we announced yesterday, if and when the sales contract is executed and approved by MLB, we will make the appropriate timely disclosure such as modifying the financial forecast. For your information, we will negotiate the deal by assuming the comprehensive asset value of First Avenue Entertainment LLLP as being 1.4 billion U.S. dollars.
“Although Mr. Howard Lincoln will remain as a board member of the team and of Nintendo of America after his retirement from the CEO of the Seattle Mariners, I would like to take this opportunity to express my great appreciation for his shouldering and carrying out the huge responsibilities for both Nintendo and the Seattle Mariners, and for his splendid leadership.”
— Tatsumi Kimishima