Back in 1992, the Seattle Mariners were in trouble. While they weren’t quite as bad as the fictional Cleveland Indians team from Major League, Seattle’s dismal performance on the field caused a similar meltdown from their ownership. Mariners owner Jeff Smulyan constantly threatened to relocate the franchise, but he relented in the middle of the season, ultimately selling the team to Nintendo. Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nintendo’s Chairman and President, wasn’t a fan of the sport, but he made sure the team stayed in Seattle to thank the city for their years-long support of Nintendo’s North American headquarters.
Today, Nintendo decided to walk off the field by selling the majority of their stake in the Mariners to the other members of First Avenue Entertainment, the team’s minority ownership group. Famed bowtie enthusiast Howard Lincoln will be replaced as the team’s CEO by John Stanton, though Lincoln will continue to have a seat on the team’s Board of Directors.
“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.”
A rather unique entity among Major League Baseball’s 32 owners, Nintendo leveraged their position as a video game producer to develop a series of games starring Ken Griffey Jr., Seattle’s Hall of Fame outfielder, in the 90s. The last game in the series, Ken Griffey Jr.’s Slugfest, was released in 1999 and helped put developer Angel Studios on the map. You might know them better as Rockstar San Diego, the creators of Red Dead Redemption.
The sale of the Mariners likely has something to do with Nintendo’s gloomy financial outlook. But their investment in Seattle baseball will pay off handsomely. The consolemaker reportedly purchased the Mariners for $100 million back in 1992 and the team is worth $1.4 billion today.