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September 23, 2013 at 7:59 AM

Howard Lincoln says Nintendo has no plans to sell Mariners

Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln says Ninetendo of America has no immediate plans to sell a 55 percent stake in the team given it by the late Hiroshi Yamauchi. Photo Credit: AP

Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln says Ninetendo of America has no immediate plans to sell a 55 percent stake in the team given it by the late Hiroshi Yamauchi. Photo Credit: AP

Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln gave an interview to the Puget Sound Business Journal over the weekend, stating that Nintendo of America will not be selling its majority stake in the team at this time. The death last week of majority owner Hiroshi Yamauchi left open the possibility that his 55 percent stake — transferred to Nintendo of America in 2004 for estate planning purposes — could be up for grabs.

But Lincoln, who returned early from an Alaskan fishing trip after learning of the death, said he’d spoken with the second-in-command at parent company Nintendo Co. in Japan, Tatsumi Kimishima, and that Nintendo’s commitment to the Mariners will continue.

“I can tell you I have spoken to Mr. Kimishima in Japan and there are no plans to sell (Nintendo of America’s) majority interest in the team,” Lincoln said.

Just as an aside, the Times and other news outlets that cover the Mariners had asked for interviews with Lincoln prior to Yamauchi’s death last week. I was told at the time that team spokesmen would not be in contact with Lincoln until at least today. Lincoln has barely been visible this season, especially over the past month when it was revealed — and confirmed behind the scenes by Mariners officials — that GM Jack Zduriencik had a one-year contract extension tacked on to his current deal late last year.

The Mariners have yet to announce whether Zduriencik will return next year. Same goes for manager Eric Wedge, whose contract runs out after this season.

Instead, the two have been allowed to twist in the wind of public specualtion nationwide for much of the past month while the team’s upper management — Lincoln and president Chuck Armstrong — have all-but-eliminated their public visibility. The team’s minority owners — many of whom regularly attend games — have continued their tradition of letting Lincoln do all of their talking for them when it comes to how the team is handled and operated.

Lincoln told the Puget Sound Business Journal that the team’s owners remain committed to the ballclub’s future.

“I think all the members of our ownership group feel the same way,” Lincoln said. “It’s basically the same group of people. Other than the fact that John Stanton acquired his interest from John McCaw, and Mr. Yamauchi transferred his majority interest, our group has remained the same. And it is very, very stable. In all those years since 1992, either under (current Mariners chairman emeritus) John Ellis or myself, we have had monthly ownership meetings. In all those meetings, we have never really had serious disagreement, never had a split in the ownership group. That in itself is a clear indication of how strongly the ownership group is committed to Seattle and the Northwest.”

The group purchased the Mariners for $100 million in 1992, adding an additional $112 million for Safeco Field construction costs in the years that followed. Today, with the recent acquisition of its own regional sports network, the Mariners could fetch upwards of $1 billion if put on the market despite four consecutive losing seasons.

That value should increase once the team works out the kinks in its new operation agreement with that RSN — ROOT Sports — and if it can boost TV ratings and fan attendance at Safeco Field by managing to field a winning team. With a just-completed 3-7 road trip, the Mariners have already lost one more game than they did during their 75-87 season last year.

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