In what amounts to an internal shakeup of the Mariners ownership group, Nintendo of America announced plans to sell a significant part of its interest to the other members of the club’s board of directors.
The result is that minority owner John Stanton will replace Howard Lincoln as the club’s chairman, chief operating officer and designated control person to Major League Baseball.
“The goal of this ownership team is to win a World Series here in Seattle,” Stanton said, “and have a parade and celebration for that event. I think that it’s time that we have that accomplishment. … It’s our No. 1 goal.”
The transaction is contingent on formal approval from Major League Baseball, which is expected to occur at the owners meetings on Aug. 16-18 in Houston. Completion of that legal process should occur shortly after that approval.
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Lincoln characterized the transaction as a “transition” and revealed that the sale price was determined after placing a $1.4 billion value on the franchise and its 71 percent ownership stake in Root Sports.
While specific transaction details were not disclosed, Nintendo of America is reducing its holding from 55 percent to 10 percent.
If so, the value of the shares to be transferred to the other 16 members of the ownership group, known as First Avenue Entertainment LLLP, projects at $630 million.
“From the first day of our involvement nearly 24 years ago,” Lincoln said, “Nintendo has had two goals for its investment in the Mariners. First, we wanted to assure the permanence of the team in this great city.
“And on that count, I am proud and gratified that this agreement further solidifies that goal. On the other hand, I’m equally disappointed that we have not been able to host a World Series game for our fans.”
Stanton said there will be no majority owner in the new arrangement and indicated no changes are planned in the franchise’s management.
“The management, led by (club president) Kevin Mather will remain the same. He’ll continue to run the organization,” Stanton said.
“I’ve also been impressed by the direction, guidance, leadership and culture that (general manager) Jerry Dipoto has (brought) to the whole organization, baseball operations and the team on the field.
“I’m thrilled with the passion that Scott Servais brings, as well as his insights and creativity in managing the team. We plan no changes as a result of this (transition.)”
Stanton is a Seattle native who made his fortune as a pioneer in the wireless industry. He joined the Mariners ownership group in December 2000 and became a member of the club’s board of directors in December 2016.
“I’m sure most of you never heard of me,” Stanton said Wednesday at a news conference to announce the transition. “Except for college, I have lived basically my entire life in the Seattle area.”
Stanton serves as chairman of the Trilogy Partnerships, a private equity concern that invests in growth companies and operates international wireless companies.
He serves on the boards of Microsoft, Costco and Columbia Sportswear, but characterized his new role with the Mariners as “perhaps the supreme honor for me of my career.”
Lincoln will remain on the club’s board of directors as the representative for Nintendo’s ownership interests, which continues his relationship with that Japanese company.
Lincoln joined Nintendo as its senior vice president and general counsel in 1983, and played a key role in the company’s 1992 purchase of the Mariners from former owner Jeff Smulyan.
Lincoln became the chairman of Nintendo of America in 1994, but resigned that position in 2000, roughly four months after replacing John Ellis as the Mariners chairman and chief executive officer.
Lincoln’s tenure in charge of the Mariners included their 116-victory season in 2001 and two appearances in the American League championship series. The club’s current 14-year postseason drought is the longest in the major leagues.
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The John Stanton file
Personal: Born in Seattle and raised in Bellevue. He earned a B.A. from Whitman College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. John and his wife, Terry, have two grown sons.
Mariners background: Joined the ownership group in December 2000. Became a member of the board of directors in 2016.
Résumé: He co-founded three national wireless operators over the past three decades. His involvement began at McCaw Cellular Communications (sold in 1994 and is now AT&T Wireless Corp.), where he served as vice president (1983-1985), chief operating officer (1985-1988), vice chairman (1988-1991) and as a director (1987-1994). In the 1990s, he and his partners acquired, built and operated rural wireless systems in the Western Wireless Corp., which he led through 2005. In 1994, he co-founded VoiceStream Wireless, where he served as chairman and CEO until 2001, when it was sold and became T-Mobile.
Currently: He is the chairman of the Trilogy Partnerships, a private equity concern that invests in growth companies and operates international wireless companies. He serves on the boards of Microsoft, Costco and Columbia Sportswear.
In the community: During the past decade, he has chaired or co-chaired the boards of Whitman College, the Business Partnership for Early Learning, Year Up of Puget Sound, the United Way of King County campaign, the Washington Roundtable and the Regional Transportation Commission. He serves on the boards of the Seattle Foundation and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.