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Seattle Mariners Sold; Lincoln To Step Down as CEO

Seattle MarinersNintendo of America is selling its majority share of the Seattle Mariners and its minority stake in ROOT Sports NW to current minority investor First Avenue Entertainment (FAE), in a deal that values the team and the sports-network share at $1.4 billion.

Nintendo will retain a 10 percent share of the Mariners. As part of the deal and at closing, current CEO Howard Lincoln will retire from day-to-day operations, and John Stanton will replace him as Chairman and CEO, and as the designated Major League Baseball Control Person. Lincoln will still be associated with the team as a member of First Avenue Entertainment, while also representing Nintendo on the FAE Board of Directors. FAE was created by the Mariners and other investors to purchase ROOT Sports in 2013.

Major League Baseball must approve the transaction.

“From the first day of our involvement nearly 24 years ago, Nintendo has had two goals for its investment in the Mariners,” Lincoln said via press release. “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.”

“My goal and the goal of the entire Mariners ownership and management team is to win a World Series,” Stanton said via press release. “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.”

Nintendo had informed FAE principals that it wanted out of the Mariners and offered them a first shot at team and the ROOT Sports share.

In Seattle, Lincoln had a mixed record leading the Mariners. While the team was successful on the ledger sheet (Safeco Field was build under his leadership, and he saved the team from being moved to Tampa Bay), it was less so on the field in recent years, with only two winning records since 2008. The Mariners have been shut out of the playoffs in the last 14 years, and it may take a while to improve the on-field product: Baseball Prospectus ranks the Mariners farm system of being among the worst in all of Major League Baseball, an assessment shared by ESPN’s Keith Law and Baseball America.

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