BY Art Thiel 06:12PM 08/14/2012

Wife of Mariners owner Yamauchi dies

Shortly after July 23 trade of Ichiro to the New York Yankees, Michiko Yamauchi, wife of Mariners’ majority owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, died in Kyoto, Sportspress Northwest learned from Japanese news sources.

No cause of the July 29 death was reported. The Mariners had no comment.

Since 1992, Yamauchi, 84, has owned 55 percent of the Seattle Mariners, although in 2004 he sold his stake for estate purposes to Nintendo of America in Redmond, a subsidiary of Nintendo of Japan, one of the world’s largest producers of video games. He retained operational control of the franchise, but has yet to see the team play in person.

Hiroshi Yamauchi / Mariners

The Mariners opened the major league season in Tokyo against the Oakland A’s March 28-29, but Yamauchi did not attend. Mariners CEO Howard Lincoln, a former longtime attorney for NOA who has been Yamauchi’s representative on the team’s board of directors, declined to say why.

Yamauchi and Michiko Inaba were married in Kyoto not long after World War II ended in 1945, according to “Game Over,” a 1993 book by David Scheff on the rise of Nintendo of Japan, one of the world’s largest makers of video games.

They had three children, daughters Yoko and Fujiko and a son, Katsuhito. The eldest, Yoko, now 61,  married Minoru Arakawa, a graduate of MIT, and the couple moved to the U.S. to help found Nintendo of America. In 1981, they moved NOA’s headquarters from New York to a warehouse in Southcenter, from where NOA became a huge success behind the “Donkey Kong” brand of video games.

In December, 1991, Yamauchi agreed to the request of then-U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton to lead a group of Seattle-area businessmen who bought the Mariners from Jeff Smulyan for $100 million.

The move was controversial because MLB owners claimed to have rules against foreign investment, but that was not true. MLB was shamed into approving the sale in June 1992. The group remains largely intact — the fourth-longest-tenured ownership entity in MLB — and Arakawa remained on the Mariners board until his retirement from NOA in 2002.

The franchise was recently valued at $641 million by a judge in the divorce trial of co-owner Chris Larson, who has the single largest American stake in the club.

At $2.5 billion, Yamauchi was listed No. 491 in Forbes magazine’s most recent list of the world’s 500 wealthiest people, No. 12 in Japan. But his wealth had been cut considerably by  a 55 percent drop in Nintendo’s stock value in 2011.

At the press conference announcing the Ichiro trade, Lincoln, in answer to a question, said speculation that ownership was considering a sale of the club was “absolute nonsense.”

That was before the death of Michiko Yamauchi. She had no stake nor apparent interest in the Mariners, and the impact on Yamauchi’s desire to retain the Mariners is not yet publicly known.


YourThoughts

  • S45d14

    hm. Truly sorry to hear about the loss of a long time spouse. 
    It is a fact, however, that the ownership and management group, from the aging and inherently disinterested Yamauchi  to the dinosaur-minded contingent of the unqualified and  aging Lincoln and Armstrong, even Ellis and whoever else is a near octogenarian, disinterested widow, otherwise-occupied ex-powerbroker-something-or-other who’s  in it for the perks of community status  (long gone) will soon be gone, one way or another. Surely they have contingency plans. Must be to sell, and sooner rather than later I’d guess.  We can only hope. (For a sale). They’ve given up their duty to hold the team in trust for the community. They will be gone. Death and taxes wil do it if nothing else. 
    Boycott the park. They’ll git gone sooner that way.

    • RadioGuy

      Not the time and place for that, S45d14.  If not for Yamauchi, there might be no Seattle Mariners.  My respect and sympathy to Yamauchi-san.

  • Udubber

    My sympathies go out to Mr Yamauchi and his family.  To love someone for so long is a blessing not granted a lot of us.
    I want to thank Mr Yamauchi for his willingness to help Seattle keep its MLB baseball team.  Without him Seattle would not have a team!  A truly magnanimous gesture to our city since he has not shown the interest of owners like Steinbrenner in micromanaging his team.  Baseball CAN be enjoyed as just a baseball game.  The current generation of owners/fans/media wants everything right now!  I am dissatisfied too, by the current state of the franchise but in my heart I am still happy we have a team to be dissatisfied with!
    Thank you Mr Yamauchi

    • Artthiel

       Whatever the Mariners’  current state of affairs, no one locally in Seattle in 1991 had the stones to be the 51 percenter to keep Smulyan and the MLB cabal from absconding to Tampa with the Mariners. And then take six months of public abuse from MLB for his nationality. 

  • Udubber

    My sympathies go out to Mr Yamauchi and his family.  To love someone for so long is a blessing not granted a lot of us.
    I want to thank Mr Yamauchi for his willingness to help Seattle keep its MLB baseball team.  Without him Seattle would not have a team!  A truly magnanimous gesture to our city since he has not shown the interest of owners like Steinbrenner in micromanaging his team.  Baseball CAN be enjoyed as just a baseball game.  The current generation of owners/fans/media wants everything right now!  I am dissatisfied too, by the current state of the franchise but in my heart I am still happy we have a team to be dissatisfied with!
    Thank you Mr Yamauchi

    • Artthiel

       Whatever the Mariners’  current state of affairs, no one locally in Seattle in 1991 had the stones to be the 51 percenter to keep Smulyan and the MLB cabal from absconding to Tampa with the Mariners. And then take six months of public abuse from MLB for his nationality. 

  • RadioGuy

    Not the time and place for that, S45d14.  If not for Yamauchi, there might be no Seattle Mariners.  My respect and sympathy to Yamauchi-san.

  • jafabian

    Thoughts and prayers to the Yamauchi family.  Nice to have an update on them as well.  Personally, I’d love to see them remain as owners of the club.  I say that remembering the George Argyos days.

    • Artthiel

      May be time for a change, but his personal ordeal trumps all. 

      • jafabian

        Agreed.  Might be time for a change but not in the way that the Sonics went from Ackerley to Schultz.  Or when the Seahawks went from Nordstrom to Behring.  However I would love to see Lincoln step down as priniciple owner and have Larson step in his place.  Not sure that’s gonna happen though.

        • Matt

          Sad news, but it’s defnitely time for a change.  The Mariners are much more locked in than either the early 90s Seahawks or recently departed/deceased Sonics.  The Relocation Boogeyman doesn’t scare me at all.  We thank the ownership for keeping the Mariners here 20 years ago, but there’s a lot of room for improvement, esepcially when compared with our AL West competitors.

  • jafabian

    Thoughts and prayers to the Yamauchi family.  Nice to have an update on them as well.  Personally, I’d love to see them remain as owners of the club.  I say that remembering the George Argyos days.

    • Artthiel

      May be time for a change, but his personal ordeal trumps all. 

      • jafabian

        Agreed.  Might be time for a change but not in the way that the Sonics went from Ackerley to Schultz.  Or when the Seahawks went from Nordstrom to Behring.  However I would love to see Lincoln step down as priniciple owner and have Larson step in his place.  Not sure that’s gonna happen though.

        • Matt

          Sad news, but it’s defnitely time for a change.  The Mariners are much more locked in than either the early 90s Seahawks or recently departed/deceased Sonics.  The Relocation Boogeyman doesn’t scare me at all.  We thank the ownership for keeping the Mariners here 20 years ago, but there’s a lot of room for improvement, esepcially when compared with our AL West competitors.