Mariners Insider

Mariners owner Hiroshi Yamauchi passes away at age 85

Post by Ryan Divish on Sep. 19, 2013 at 7:34 am with 5 Comments »
September 19, 2013 1:35 pm
Hiroshi Yamauchi, president of Nintendo Co.,  announces his retirement from the post at a news conference in Kyoto, western Japan Friday, May 24, 2002. The Japanese game maker said Friday it has picked a new president Satoru Iwata, 42, to replace Yamauchi, who is credited with transforming the company into a global business. The appointment, the company's first presidential change in 52 years, marks a major shift to younger management. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)
Hiroshi Yamauchi, president of Nintendo Co., announces his retirement from the post at a news conference in Kyoto, western Japan Friday, May 24, 2002. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

Hiroshi Yamauchi, the Japanese billionaire known locally as the owner of the Seattle Mariners and internationally as the man who turned Nintendo into video game powerhouse, died Thursday in central Japan from complications of pneumonia, per multiple news reports.

Yamauchi was 85, and was preceded in death by his wife, Michiko, who died last July.

Without Yamauchi, the Seattle Mariners greatest moments as a franchise – the 1995 American League Championship appearance and the record-setting, 116-win 2001 season – probably do not happen.

With the Mariners in financial disarray under then-owner Jeff Smulyan and the franchise on the verge of being relocated to TampaBay, Yamauchi was convinced by then-U.S. Senator Slade Gorton to purchase the team, along with a few Seattle-based investors, for $100 million.

The sale was approved in 1992 with Yamauchi owning 55 percent of the franchise. It became the first foreign ownership of a major league baseball team.

“Hiroshi Yamauchi is the reason that Seattle has the Mariners,” then-Sen. Slade Gorton said Thursday from his home in Bellevue. “When no one else would stand up and purchase them and they were about to leave to go to Florida, he did, simply as a civic gesture.”

In 2004, Yamauchi transferred ownership of the Mariners to Nintendo of America Inc., based in Redmond for estate planning purposes. Nintendo of America has been operating as the team’s majority ownership since then in conjunction with Chief Executive Officer Howard Lincoln.

At this time, any speculation as to how his passing would affect the current state of ownership with of the Mariners is premature.

The Mariners released this statement on Yamauchi’s passing:

“The Seattle Mariners organization is deeply saddened by the passing today of Mr. Hiroshi Yamauchi. His leadership of Nintendo is legendary worldwide. His decision in 1992 to purchase the Mariners franchise and keep Major League Baseball in Seattle as a “gesture of goodwill to the citizens of the Pacific Northwest” is legendary in this region. Mr. Yamauchi will be remembered for his role in moving forward the opportunity for Japanese baseball players to play in the United States. He will forever be a significant figure in Mariners Baseball history.”

But to limit Yamauchi to being a reclusive baseball owner would be a dishonor to one of the top businessmen in Japan and his accomplishments with Nintendo.

He was the third-generation leader of the family-operated corporation, which was founded in Kyoto in 1889.

He served as president from 1949 to 2002, turning it from a small playing card company into world-wide video game powerhouse.

Yamauchi was credited with employing Shigeru Miyamoto, who was considered a game development genius and created such hits Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong and the Legend of Zelda. Nintendo moved to the forefront of gaming business with the development of the Nintendo Entertainment System video game console, later the handheld Gameboy Console and eventually the Wii gaming system.

All of this was done under the direction of Yamauchi, who dropped out of the prestigious WasedaUniversity in Tokyo.

Yamauchi is survived by Katsuhito Yamauchi, his eldest son. A funeral is scheduled for Sunday at Nintendo, following a wake on Saturday.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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Leave a comment Comments → 5
  1. westside_guy says:

    Without him, 1995 wouldn’t have happened. Neither would 1997 or 2001.

    Rest in peace, Mr. Yamauchi.

  2. Skysport says:

    As someone who experienced the heartbreaking moving of the Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee as a kid, I will always be grateful to Mr.Yamauchi for not allowing big league baseball to be ripped away from Seattle for the second time. Respect. Honor. Peace.

  3. Quinault says:

    This saddens and excites me at the same time. Maybe it is now retirement time for Lincoln & Armstrong, maybe it is time to sell the shares to the minority owners, maybe we don’t know what will happen next. But we know that something will happen this off season. And that alone will be good.

    Hiroshi Yamauchi, will always be remembered with honor and respect here and throughout the world. The House that Griffey Built is the House of Y. Rest in Peace.

  4. RIP Mr. Yamauchi. Hopefully this somehow leads to the ouster of tweedle dee and tweedle dumb.

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