By the time the 3 p.m. press conference began Wednesday at Safeco Field, the announcement that Howard Lincoln would retire from day-to-day operations as CEO of the Mariners and that board member John Stanton would take over was expected. Lincoln threw a curveball, however, announcing a major ownership change as well.
“Nintendo of America today announced the planned sale of a majority of its interest in the Seattle Mariners to other members of the current ownership group,” Lincoln read from the press release. “Under the plan, Nintendo of America will retain a 10 percent stake in the team, while the remainder of its holdings will be sold to other members of First Avenue Entertainment LLLP (FAE). FAE is the limited partnership that owns the Seattle Mariners, and a majority interest in ROOT Sports NW.”
Lincoln revealed in the press conference that he had been anxious to retire. Once the decision was made on his part, it was determined that now was the time to make a move with ownership as well. Lincoln was given permission to approach the ownership group to give them an opportunity to purchase the majority of Nintendo of America’s interest in the team. Within 60 days, the agreement was reached.
“It really is a transition rather than a transaction,” said Stanton, the incoming Chairman and CEO. “When Hiroshi Yamauchi made what he regarded as the gift to Seattle to keep baseball in this community, he did so with the hope and belief that eventually the team would be returned entirely to local ownership. Today marks the opportunity for us to do that and it is exciting for me to see Mr. Yamauchi’s dream realized.”
With the new ownership comes new investment from the minority owners. The franchise was valued for the purpose of sale at $1.4 billion.
“There are 17 of us and every single one of us is writing a check to make this possible,” Stanton said. “I think this is a profound statement by the ownership group as to their commitment to keeping baseball in Seattle.”
The board will remain mostly the same, with Minoru Arakawa being replaced by Jeff Raikes from the ownership group as the only change. Stanton also announced that management, led by president Kevin Mather, would remain the same and that no other changes other than what Lincoln had described would be made.
It’s hard to imagine that there will not be other changes, however. How could there not be with a new face and voice at the top?
We’ve seen it on the field with the addition of general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais. Off the field and behind the scenes, we should see it, too. From budgets to player payroll to business philosophy to organizational culture, it will be interesting to watch.
“I think that the energy that you have in an organization is a product of many things,” Stanton said. “In baseball, it is a product of winning. It’s a product of the enthusiasm that your team has for their involvement in the community. It’s a consequence of the way that you make decisions and the way that you communicate them. I think that Howard has done a terrific job. He and I are different people and I will approach things in different ways than he does, but I think to have the kind of enthusiasm in the back office is important in terms of the kind of culture you have in the organization.
“But ultimately in baseball, it is about winning on the field. We are going to do everything we can to put a winning team on the field and bring home the good results for the city of Seattle.”