Nintendo to Sell Mariners Stake to Stanton Ownership Group

  • Mobile-Phone Mogul Would Become Chief Executive Officer
  • John Stanton Says Ownership Group Includes 17 Investors

Nintendo Co. will sell its controlling stake in the Seattle Mariners baseball team to a group of minority owners led by mobile-phone mogul John Stanton in a deal that values the business at $1.4 billion and places it under local control.

The sale, which also includes the team’s regional television network, is the first in Major League Baseball since the San Diego Padres fetched $800 million in 2012. The Los Angeles Dodgers were also sold that year, for a record $2.15 billion.

"It’s a nice number,” said Marc Ganis, founder of Chicago-based SportsCorp Ltd., which advises sports leagues and teams. “If it hit the market the price may have been higher. A few years ago people would have thought it was an insane number, but baseball is doing very well.”

Forbes valued the Mariners at $1.2 billion, 12th out of 30 big-league teams.

The company’s U.S. unit announced plans for the sale in a statement Wednesday. Nintendo plans to keep a 10 percent stake.

As part of the deal, Mariners Chief Executive Officer Howard Lincoln will retire from day-to-day operations, and Stanton will replace him as chairman and CEO.

Stanton was a lieutenant of wireless pioneer Craig McCaw who later helped build companies including Western Wireless Corp. and VoiceStream Wireless Corp.

Stanton will be the designated Major League Baseball Control Person. The majority group includes 17 investors, according to the statement. None has a majority holding.

Closing of the transaction is subject to the completion of contracts and approval from Major League Baseball, which is expected in August of this year.

The Mariners are in first place atop the American League’s western division.

“My goal and the goal of the entire Mariners ownership and management team is to win a World Series,” Stanton said in the statement. “I believe that the Mariners are well positioned to achieve that goal and it will be my honor to lead the organization.”

Nintendo is selling the stake as it struggles with a shift in the games industry. Consumers are spending more time playing games on mobile devices, moving away from dedicated machines like its Wii console. The company’s revenue has declined for seven straight years, including an 8 percent drop in the last fiscal year to 504.5 billion yen ($4.5 billion).

Stanton, whose father was an aircraft engineer at Boeing Co., is also a board member of Microsoft Corp. and Costco Wholesale Corp.

"It’s a positive change because you have local ownership,” Ganis said. “It’s not some dramatic shift from where they are now.”

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