Japanese video games giant Nintendo has confirmed that it plans to sell its majority stake in the Seattle Mariners baseball team. Nintendo has owned a commanding stake in the baseball team for over 24 years, but that’s a stake that the Japanese company now plans to sell off. As reported by the BBC, Nintendo has released a statement saying that it has begun talks to sell “a portion of its ownership.” Whilst it’s unclear exactly how much of its stake Nintendo plans to sell in the Seattle Mariners, it’s believed that the company will no longer be the team’s majority owner once the sale has been completed, suggesting that it will be a significant stake sold.
The move comes from Nintendo amongst a number of different shifts in their focus as the company struggles to re-cooperate from a 60 percent drop in net profit. According to Polygon, the sale marks the end of Nintendo’s 24-year ownership of the team that it saved in the 1990s. It was Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi that bought a 55 percent stake in the team back in 1992. The team is, of course, local to Nintendo of America’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, with Nintendo’s intervention designed to prevent the club from having to relocate.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Yamauchi’s decision behind the sale was out of personal love for the team or sport; however, it wasn’t. Nintendo’s then-president is believed to have made the purchase out of respect for the local area that Nintendo of America dominates, and it could arguably have been seen by some as a PR move. It’s a move that paid off for Nintendo, with the Mariners able to remain in Seattle and Nintendo able to use the club for sponsorship purchases. However, that’s all before Nintendo’s recent announcement that they’d be selling their majority stake in the team to various other members of the club’s ownership.
Since Hiroshi Yamauchi’s death in 2013, Nintendo’s new president Satoru Iwata had been overseeing the team as part of his responsibilities until his own death last year. Nintendo’s decision to part with their majority stake in the team is likely something to do with Nintendo’s new management and a general streamlining for the company. The past few months haven’t been easy for Nintendo, reporting a 60 percent drop in net profit, which could suggest why the company is looking to focus their efforts on video games and not external assets like the Seattle Mariners.
During Nintendo’s tenure of ownership, the Seattle Mariners’ successes were completely turned around. The team won all three of their divisional titles and made all four of their postseason appearances to date. Nintendo’s influence on the club was also pretty clear, as they signed several baseball stars from Japanese leagues, including future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki. The Mariners set the American league record in 2001 when they won 116 games. Not only did Nintendo’s intervention in the Seattle Mariners save the team from having to relocate, but many would argue that a good deal of their success as a team also comes down to Yamauchi’s overseeing of the club.
As President of Nintendo, Hiroshi Yamauchi acquired the Seattle Mariners in 1992 for $125 million. A recent valuation has put the team’s value at $1.4 billion, suggesting a considerable return on investment for Nintendo. It’s now very likely that Nintendo will invest the money they’ve made from the Seattle Mariners into their core video games business, which is struggling to compete with alternative consoles from Sony and Microsoft. However, for players and fans of the Seattle Mariners, Nintendo selling their stake in the team marks the end of an era, but it’s very unlikely that their impact on the team will be forgotten anytime soon.
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