Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nintendo visionary and Mariners owner, dies

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NintendoTOKOYO — Hiroshi Yamauchi, the former Seattle Mariners majority owner and visionary behind Nintendo’s rise from a playing card company to a video game powerhouse, had died.

According to the BBC, 85-year-old Yamauchi died Thursday morning from complications of pneumonia. A funeral will be held on Sunday in Japan.

Mr. Yamauchi ran Nintendo from 1949 until 2002, helping build it from a small time trading card company into a household video game name. He spearheaded Nintendo as they moved into the arcade business, the BBC reported, overseeing the release of iconic games such as Donkey Kong, Zelda and Super Mario Brothers. He also helped launch a number of iconic video game systems.

“This man was the president of Nintendo during the NES, the SNES, the N64 and the Gamecube — the first two were transformative pieces of electronic entertainment,” Rob Crossley, associate editor of Computer and Video Games magazine told the BBC.

Yamauchi also became the majority shareholder of the Seattle Mariners in 1992, a fact that many found bizarre because he had never even seen a baseball game. Yamauchi’s tenure saw a strong influx of Japanese players, such as Kazuhiro Sazaki and Ichiro Suzuki.

On Thursday, the Seattle Mariners organization said Yamauchi’s decision to purchase the team and help keep them in the Pacific Northwest was a shining moment in Seattle sports history.

“He will forever be a significant figure in Mariners Baseball history,” officials with the team said.

Yamauchi transferred his majority ownership to Nintendo of America in 2004, represented by Howard Lincoln and president Chuck Armstrong, but still retained some control. Yamauchi never did attend a Mariners game, and was believed to be the only majority owner in major American pro sports history who never went to a team game.

It has previously been rumored the club was gearing up to sell following Yamauchi’s death.

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