Nintendo will retain a 10 percent stake in the team and sell the remainder of its holdings to John Stanton and other members of his ownership group. The partnership owns the Mariners and majority interest in ROOT Sports.
Nintendo of America announced Wednesday that it intends to sell its majority stake in the Mariners to a group led by minority owner John Stanton, and that he will replace CEO Howard Lincoln.
Nintendo will retain a 10 percent stake in the team and sell the remainder of its holdings to the other members of First Avenue Entertainment (FAE). The limited partnership owns the Mariners and majority interest in the ROOT Sports regional network. FAE was started in 2013 by the Mariners ownership group — Nintendo and minority owners — to purchase ROOT Sports. Nintendo remains a part of FAE.
The agreement must be approved by Major League Baseball, which is expected in August, the team said in a statement.
Stanton will assume control of the team’s day-to-day operations and become chairman and CEO. Lincoln will continue as a member of the FAE Board of Directors, the team statement said.
“From the first day of our involvement nearly 24 years ago, Nintendo has had two goals for its investment in the Mariners,” Lincoln said in a team statement. “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.”
Said Stanton in the team statement: “My goal and the goal of the entire Mariners ownership and management team is to win a World Series. I believe that the Mariners are well positioned to achieve that goal and it will be my honor to lead the organization. I want to thank Howard for his leadership for the last 17 years and thank the members of the board and ownership for giving me this opportunity.”
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A valuation of $1.4 billion for FAE’s holdings (the team and ROOT Sports) was used as the basis for the sale, the team said. Nintendo of America, Howard Lincoln and John Stanton were principal participants in the negotiations.
No organizational or personnel changes will occur as a result of the transaction, the team statement said.
During a news conference Wednesday at Safeco Field, Lincoln confirmed that had the minority ownership group not stepped up to purchase the majority share, Nintendo of America would have looked at “a Plan B,” which would have opened the franchise to outside investors.
“We never reached that point, but clearly if our minority owners had not stepped up, then we would have gone public,” Lincoln said. “But it was never our first choice or even a choice that we were fond of. We wanted to give the first opportunity to our existing owners.”
Stanton made his fortune in the wireless industry, first as a close lieutenant of Craig McCaw, the Centralia entrepreneur who cobbled together the first nationwide cellular network in the 1980s. It was Stanton who filed McCaw Cellular’s first application with regulators to carry calls over the airwaves.
After McCaw Cellular’s sale to AT&T in 1994, Stanton would go on to build and lead Western Wireless and VoiceStream Wireless. Western was ultimately scooped up by Alltel, and VoiceStream became what is now Bellevue-based T-Mobile US.
Following his rise in business, Stanton has also been touted as a potential candidate for statewide political office. A big donor to Republican candidates and causes, he turned down an effort to draft him to run to succeed Gov. Gary Locke in the 2004 election.
Stanton currently splits time between Trilogy Equity Partners, an investment firm he founded with fellow McCaw Cellular alumni, and service on corporate and philanthropic boards. He is a member of the board of directors of both Microsoft and Costco.
Times staff reporter Matt Day contributed to this report.