The Mariners have new owners

DMZ · November 25, 2004 at 7:25 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Nintendo of America has bought out the shares of former President Hiroshi Yamauchi. Japan Today has a story. If the stories out so far are correct, he sold his remaining shares for $67m sometime in August, putting Nintendo’s direct share over 50%.

Now, without details of past transactions, we can’t know what he’d sold of his majority ownership interest before that, and for how much. Given the restructuring of the ownership group since 1992, the current valuation of the franchise, and so on, we can be reasonably sure that he’s not selling 51% of the club for $67m — this is the last chunk that puts NoA in control.

This is an interesting development. Yamauchi (as you can read in Art Thiel’s book) rarely took an active role in franchise affairs, only once in a while intervening when Japanese players were involved. He left the management of his team to Ellis and then Lincoln, and we’ve seen their management of the team. It’s unlikely that Nintendo would attempt to depose the team’s leadership soon, but as a Redmond company they’re far, far more likely to pay more attention to what their massive investment in the team is doing than Yamauchi did, and that could be good if their interests coincide with ours, and it could be bad, if they want to look at it as a pure investment.

Also, there will probably be more sightings of Mario and Yoshi around the park next year.

Thank you, Mr. Yamauchi. You don’t get enough credit for your contribution to Seattle baseball. They far outweigh anything anyone else has achieved here. I’m glad you were willing to be the better man and ignore baseball’s insult in taking your money without letting you run the team when you were the largest part of the group that purchased the team in 1992. I’m happy that your management of the franchise eventually convinced baseball to remove their small-minded objections to ownership of teams by those who aren’t Americans, or Canadians, or companies from one of those two countries.

And particularly, I thank you for having the foresight to see that Ichiro would be a star here, and for having the courage to force the issue. Everyone in Seattle should appreciate that we would not be inspired every game by his great play were it not for your investment to bring him to the Mariners.



29 Responses to “The Mariners have new owners”

  1. David J Corcoran on November 25th, 2004 7:29 pm

    I will miss Yamauchi. He was a good owner. He is part of the reason baseball is still in Seattle.

    One thing though:
    Could this be the end of Howard Lincoln?

  2. Mark on November 25th, 2004 7:35 pm

    I have a pet theory about corporately-owned baseball clubs, with which I enjoy boring my friends. My theory states that corporate teams are less likely to win championships, despite the fact that they have deep corporate pockets to draw on, because their teams are more likely to be run as a business, with profit as the sole motive. Since second- and third-place teams are more likely to be profitable than overspending champions, my theory states, corporations are more likely to invest in a team that’s good but not good enough.

    So what’s the word — am I full of crap?

  3. David J Corcoran on November 25th, 2004 7:40 pm

    Well, The Angels won the World Series 2 years ago under the ownership of Disney, am I not correct?

  4. tvwxman on November 25th, 2004 7:43 pm

    Living down here in Atlanta, I can see that mentality in the Braves ownership.

    However, I’d also contend that the Mariners strategy is more towards maintaining profit over risking for winning as well. And with a Redmond-based company running the show, I would hope they’d be more in tune with the fans needs and wants.

    And as far as “privately” held owners being better, I give you exhibit 1: George Argyros and exhibit 2: Ken Behring.

  5. Ace-of-Spades on November 25th, 2004 8:05 pm

    Interesting. Could this mean a decline in posted Japanese players coming over to the Mariners?

  6. David J Corcoran on November 25th, 2004 8:29 pm

    If it means fewer Masao Kidas, I am all for it. If it means fewer Ichiros, this is bad.

  7. DrNaka on November 25th, 2004 8:38 pm

    From other media in Japan this move was explained that Mr.Yamauchi wanted to prevent that his individual Mariner’s stocks will be dispersed in future.
    As for now I don’t think that it changes something. Mr.Yamauchi is the big stockholder of Nintendo and Nintendo USA is Nintendo’s subsidery. So he just moved the Mariner’s stocks from right pocket to left pocket.
    As for long time Mariner’s have a sustained ownership.

  8. eponymous coward on November 25th, 2004 9:30 pm

    Howard Lincoln on his way out? I don’t think so. He’s the president of NOA, no? It’s like thinking Wally Walker might be on his way out… even though he has an ownership share of the Sonics.

    The best bet for change is hoping that Dave’s source is right and we’re going for young FAs, not old, or that Bavasi and Armstrong will be shown the door once the franchise impodes, since it’s unlikely Delgado/Koskie type signings will do much more than make the team mediocre instead of bad in the BEST case, and in the worst case might give us another sub-70 win team. It’s hard for me to see how attendance is going to go up with a consistently last place team- and the leaks we are hearing from Finnigan et al are a strategy meant to create the ILLUSION of progress, but are almost certain to not pay off big in win-loss record.

  9. eponymous coward on November 25th, 2004 9:38 pm

    Whoops, he’s not NOA chairman any more.

    He’s on their board, though, so it’s not like there’s no connection.

  10. David on November 25th, 2004 11:00 pm

    It’s too bad he never got to see his team play in the flesh.

  11. MER on November 25th, 2004 11:24 pm

    For better or worse, Yamauchi was the antithesis of Steinbrenner. Obviously there are problems with a hands on owner, but that usually comes with the passion to win.

  12. JPWood on November 26th, 2004 9:24 am

    I’d like to write an ode to Mr Yamauchi, as he deserves it, but this is not the place. Just: he invested in Seattle baseball at its nadir and saw it through the the Piniella years to glory. He invested in devalued bonds that turned to gold to everyone’s surprise, including his own most probably. He offered 12 years of financial stability to a team that was in dire need of exactly that after having suffered through Argyros and other carpet-baggers, and he opened Seattle FO eyes, and now all of baseball’s, to the possibilities of Asian players and, by corollary, a true World championship. Etc.
    After having worked 10 years in Japan and 20 more with the Japanese outside Japan, I am certain that Mr Yamauchi as former Kai-cho of Nintendo will continue to exercise his steady but light hand on the M’s operations. As the French say, it’s his “danseuse”, his mistress, his secret garden, for at least as long as Ichiro is around.

  13. Ty on November 26th, 2004 9:48 am

    This could be bad. This might mean Ichiro might go. Yikes. Also, I don’t wanna see fricken Mario’s and Yoshies all over Safeco Feild. Nintendo stinks anyway.

  14. Jeff in Fremont on November 26th, 2004 10:16 am

    Meanwhile, according to the P-I, the M’s are on the verge of signing two gimpy first basesmen, appearantly forgetting that Bucky exists. Man, my enthusiasm for this team is just…hey, aren’t the Sonics playing tonight?

  15. David J Corcoran on November 26th, 2004 10:27 am

    Oh, no problem Jeff. They’ll just move Bucky to center field and call it good.

  16. PositivePaul on November 26th, 2004 11:20 am

    Here’s “Origato,”
    Hiroshi Yamauchi,
    For saving the M’s

  17. JPWood on November 26th, 2004 11:40 am

    That’s “Arigato”, but you have the rest right.

  18. John on November 26th, 2004 11:57 am

    The PI article also mentions a Delgado/Sexson/Koskie scenario and a Delgado/Glaus scenario, which would be even better. Keep Bucky at DH vs LHP and Ibanez vs RHP.

    Let’s see, we get vs RHP

    1. Ichiro (L), rf
    2. Reed (L) or Winn (S), cf
    3. Delgado (L), dh or 1b
    4. Sexson ®, 1b or dh
    5. Ibanez (L), lf
    6. Boone ®, 2b
    7. Koskie (L), 3b
    8. Olivo ®, c (or 8th)
    9. Lopez ®, ss (or 7th)


    1. Ichiro (L), rf
    2. Winn (S), lf
    3. Delgado (L), 1b
    4. Glaus ®, 3b
    5. Ibanez (L), dh
    6. Boone ®, 2b
    7. Reed (L), cf
    8. Olivo ®, c
    9. Lopez ®, ss

    Batting order slots 5-7 are pretty much interchangeable depending on who’s hot/matchups. Same for slots 8-9. If both are playing, Reed/Winn can swap out at 2 and 7 with the same considerations. Flexibility, Power, and if the “rooks’ come through at the bottom of the order a formidable lineup under either scenario as long as you can keep both Delgado and Glaus/Sexson healthy.

  19. John on November 26th, 2004 11:58 am

    Imagine the psychological effect on Delgado to suggest that you’re going to sign another stick to bat behind him that would push him to the three spot. If that wouldn’t make a hitter salivate I don’t know what would.

    Then remind him he’ll have Ichiro on base in front of him.

    Cha-ching! RBI’s up the gazoo! Where do I sign?!

  20. Trent on November 26th, 2004 12:07 pm

    I know they are just rumors in papers, but it’s kind of sad that I have yet to read one Seattle based newspaper article that even suggests that the Boras/Beltre camp has been contacted or that Seattle is showing any interest whatsoever in him. Same goes for Clement.

  21. The Birth of a Nation on November 26th, 2004 12:16 pm

    The thing that bugs me most about this ownership transition is that it actually happened months ago, yet Howard Lincoln again didn’t feel that M’s fans needed (or couldn’t be trusted?) to know of this occurrence. It’s the same old “veil of secrecy” that we saw with Bavasi’s limp-wristed news conference announcing Melvin’s firing without sharing ANY of the reasons why with the media.


  22. Elliott on November 26th, 2004 12:19 pm

    Why havent there been any rumors at all about Beltre?

  23. Detroit Danny on November 26th, 2004 12:23 pm

    Trent, are you suggesting that Seattle papers should make up a “Boras/Beltre” story? Maybe Mr. Beltre has no interest in Seattle. Same goes for Matt Clement. Not all free-agents contact every team, and vice versa. You are starving for M’s news, as am I, but if there are no facts, then there is nothing to report…Have a good day….

  24. Evan on November 26th, 2004 1:16 pm

    I haven’t heard any Beltre rumours at all. The Dodgers want to keep him – that’s it. I’ve heard no other Beltre news.

    I expect GMs are just waiting Boras out.

  25. chief on November 26th, 2004 2:26 pm

    Re Beltre/Beltran. Boras’ FAs typically don’t make much news until mid to late Dec. Look for the rumors on both of the B boys to pick up in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, as I have posted in the past, I just don’t see the Ms being serious contenders for either one of them. I think they may make a weak offer to Beltre just to appease the fans. But, I don’t see Howard letting the FO get involved enough with the big bucks and long term contract offers necessary to even get through Boras’ front door. I may be, and hope, I’m wrong but I don’t think so.

  26. Jerry on November 26th, 2004 3:36 pm

    Is it just me, or is it totally idiotic to go after two totally redundant players like Sexson and Delgado? Sure, they would help the offense. But if the M’s are going to shell out two 10mil/year contracts, why not get some guys who can help at key positions defensively. We have Bucky and Ibanez who can both DH. CF, LF, and 3B seem like far better positions to address than DH and 1B. The notion of signing one of Delgado or Sexson is debatable, but both? What would that accomplish? If we are just looking for a DH, why not take a chance on Magglio Ordonez. If his knee is not fully healthy, he can DH. Or Troy Glaus. At least then there is the possiblity that you can use the player at a defensive position.

    I am an advocate of DH by committee. Put the best players who can play good defense at their respective positions, then take the best hitter on the roster who is not on the field and have him DH. Or, stick the guy who is coming off the DL at DH while he rehabs, like the Angels did with Glaus last year. Spending money on a player just to DH is not a good plan for the M’s. They have lots of needs to fill on the defense.

  27. DMZ on November 26th, 2004 3:37 pm

    I don’t understand this blindness for Beltre rumors. Go to Google News. Put in “Beltre” or whatever free agent you’re looking for.

    USA Today, on Wednesday:

    Bavasi and an ownership criticized by the home folk as far too frugal seem poised to act, whether it’s chasing first basemen Carlos Delgado and Richie Sexson, pitcher Carl Pavano or third basemen Adrian Beltre and Troy Glaus … well, you get their strategy.

  28. JPWood on November 26th, 2004 5:51 pm

    Yamauchi sells out after 12 years for his original investment of $67M plus $25M of Smulyan money in capital, a return of a little of 2% compounded annually. Rapacious bastard.
    Fortunately, his BoD assigned him to continue to take care of the Ms. A lot of clubs would kill for that kind of ownership stability and measured effort to stay out of daily affairs.

  29. Bela Txadux on November 30th, 2004 12:57 am

    I have been very pleased to have Mr. Yamauchi as the owner of My Local Team for his tenure. He literally saved the team for this (somewat clueless and, be it said, ingrate) town. He was smart enough to let people who (ostensibly) knew baseball run the team rather than fiddle with it personally, and the results gave us some outstanding years to enjoy and remember. For all that I have opined that he (or his corporation more likely) has been sucking money out of Mariner cash flow, I have also said and continue to say that I don’t mind a bit, since it’s a profit-making enterprise and whatever the actual dollar figure put in for payroll it is sufficient in my view to field a team that could in principal win it all.

    —But he’s not gone, so let’s not wish him the best just yet. He _runs_ Nintendo; NoA is just a subsidiary. In effect, he sold his shares to himself. But the deal packages all of his shares in one place and removes him personally to a greater distance from the fortunes of the team in the next few years. In my view, this is a Bad Signal in almost every way, although a smart and surely reasonable move for him.

    I take this as his read that attendance is going to drop mightily and local discontent is likely to be directed at team ownership, both pretty good possibilities. Now, when someone sends a Memorial to the Emperor, he can just scrawl a forward address on the scroll and kick it back to H. Lincoln to deal with as the ‘acting ownership representative’ in substantive rather than titular fact. Shrewd move. He’s certainly saying, Don’t ask me for more capital. This all but guarantees that we will have Lincoln to kick around for as long as he feels like running the team, since Mr. Yamauchi is, essentially, resigning as the absentee boss of the team.

    The other very real possibility is that Mr. Yamauchi is putting all of his shares in a package so that NoA can sell in the next year or two at the top of the market for the Mariners before the franchise value craters, another quite possible development. And another extremely shrewd move; he couldn’t sell a controlling interest in pieces nearly as easily, and couldn’t sell a non-controlling interest for comparable value. Having taken a couple of $100M out of the team in profit over recent years, he can now sell his shares for max return before the real headaches hit the fandom if he chooses. Hiroshi, yo the smart dude, fer re-eal.

    In my view, Mr. Yamauchi is the Good Argyros as opposed to the (real) Bad Argyros. He invested for the $$$$, and for the good will. He has screwed over nobody, unless those who opposed a new baseball stadium are still convincing anyone of the laughably preposterous idea that they have been abused by all of this. He has made much money, and most of the time arranged for a product to be put before us that was more than worth our time. It’s been fun to watch a Money Operator rigging wire at the very top of his form, and I wish him continued success as the kind of capitalist we can all look up to.

    “Thaaa-aanks, for the memmmmorieeess . . . .”