Mariners owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, kept team in Seattle, dies at 85

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

Major League Baseball might not exist in Seattle if not for Hiroshi Yamuchi. (USATSI)
Major League Baseball might not exist in Seattle if not for Hiroshi Yamuchi. (USATSI)

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Hiroshi Yamauchi, longtime former president of Nintendo and the owner most responsible for keeping the Mariners in Seattle, has died of pneumonia at the age of 85, the AP reports.

Commissioner Bud Selig has issued the following statement:

”On behalf of Major League Baseball, I am saddened by the passing of Hiroshi Yamauchi. This visionary businessman quietly played a pivotal role in preserving Major League Baseball in the Pacific Northwest for generations, and we are grateful for his selfless gesture to help the fans of Seattle following a period of uncertainty for their local baseball Club. We are proud not only that he made the Mariners the first Major League Club with international ownership, but also that the franchise continues to represent its region with such distinction and strong global roots. I extend my deepest condolences to Mr. Yamauchi's family, friends and business associates.”

Yamauchi purchased a 55-percent share of the Mariners in 1992, just when, as Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times notes, it appeared that the team might relocate to Florida. Yamauchi's taking control allowed the team to stay in Seattle, where it has been since its inception in the mid-1970s. In 2004, Yamauchi, for purposes of estate planning, transferred his stake of the team to the Nintendo company.

"Mr. Yamauchi deserves unending thanks for his key role in saving baseball in Seattle," Mariners minority investor Buck Ferguson told Baker on Thursday.

As for who will now take the most active role among the remaining shareholders, Baker points to two possibilities: Chris Larson, who owns more than 30 percent of the team, and billionaire John Stanton, who is believed to have a stake of roughly 10 percent.

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