Sources: Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln to step down
Update: The Mariners have announced that Nintendo of America plans to sell its majority stake in the club to other members of the current ownership group. As part of that transition, John Stanton will replace Howard Lincoln as the Chairman and CEO.
Imminent ownership changes will result in CEO Howard Lincoln’s resignation or retirement from the Mariners, sources tell 710 ESPN Seattle’s Mike Salk and Brock Huard. The information has not been confirmed by the team.
John Stanton, who has been a minority owner since 2000, is expected to become the new point person for the ownership group, according to Salk.
The Mariners have announced a 3 p.m. Wednesday news conference at Safeco Field. The team has not stated what the news conference will cover, but did say in a press release that the news will be announced at the conference. The conference will be broadcast live on 710 ESPN Seattle and 710Sports.com.
Lincoln, 76, has been the organization’s CEO since September 1999, overseeing two playoff teams in 16 seasons, including the 2001 Mariners that won an MLB record 116 games in the regular season. The Mariners have had seven winning seasons under Lincoln, last winning over 90 games in 2003.
He’s been credited with helping get Safeco Field built to prevent a Mariners move to Florida in 1990s, as well as explanding the team’s footprint in Japan, a market from which they’ve signed star players including Ichiro Suzuki, Hisashi Iwakuma and Kazuhiro Sasaki.
Lincoln said last September that he was taking a pay cut after the Mariners had finished with a losing record for the ninth time in his tenure.
“I certainly feel responsible for the performance of the team and the overall performance of the franchise and when we have losing seasons like this I accept responsibility the only way that I can, and that is to take a financial hit,” he said after the press conference announcing new general manager Jerry Dipoto, according to the Associated Press.
Lincoln’s expected move would be the second big change to the Mariners front office since longtime majority owner Hiroshi Yamauchi died in 2013. Chuck Armstrong retired after 28 years as president and COO of the franchise at the end of 2014. He was replaced by Kevin Mather, who was previously their vice president of finance and ballpark administration for 18 years.
Salk said Lincoln’s exit signals a continued belief in Mather.
“Mather I think has been a difference maker for the last two years since stepping into that job. I thought he made the call at the right time with Jack Zduriencik,” said Salk, noting last year’s dismissal of Zduriencik after an up-and-down seven years as Seattle’s general manager.
In addition to his time with the Mariners, Lincoln was the chairman and CEO of Nintendo of America from 1994-2000. Nintendo of America has been the majority owner of the Mariners since 1992, and Lincoln played a role in the formation of the ownership group that bought the team from a group headed by Jeff Smulyan.
Lincoln previously was an attorney in Seattle and joined Nintendo in 1983 after representing the company in a successful lawsuit defense in 1981.
Stanton, a pioneer in the wireless industry who once was chairman of the company that eventually became T-Mobile, is a former minority owner of the Seattle Sonics.
Salk is encouraged by the possibility of Stanton taking over the CEO role.
“If he ends up becoming the next CEO or whatever the title is, to me that’s good news,” Salk said. “This is the creation of a new culture: a culture of winning, which is something I think every single Mariners fan in this city desires.”
Lincoln’s departure might have been in the works for some time.
“I think they’ve been preparing for this eventuality for a while now and I see this as essentially good news down the pike,” Salk said.
Eric Mandel contributed to this report.