HOUSTON -- Major League Baseball owners approved the sale of a controlling stake in the Seattle Mariners from Nintendo of America to a group of minority owners led by Western Wireless Corp. founder John Stanton and retired Microsoft executive Chris Larson.
The sale was announced in April and approved Thursday. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said the deal will close Friday or Monday.
This will be the first transfer in control of an MLB team since Ron Fowler led the purchase of the San Diego Padres in August 2012.
Stanton will take over as control person from current chairman Howard Lincoln, who is retiring. The Mariners anticipate a seamless transition in management.
"There's not a soul, other than the people retiring, that will be impacted, because all of these same partners are still involved," Mariners chairman emeritus John Ellis said.
Nintendo of America, under the direction of Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi, bought the Mariners from Jeff Smulyan in 1992. Under Nintendo's ownership, the Mariners moved from the Kingdome to Safeco Field in 1999.
"We all started it with this very generous input from Mr. Yamauchi and Nintendo. It's the only way we saved the team," said Ellis, who will remain a director. "Now to have the same group rearranging its percentages, John Stanton taking over, the Japanese backing down to 10 percent, is the transition that guarantees to the team for the future."
Nintendo is selling all but 10 percent of its stake in the franchise and the regional sports network ROOT Sports. The transition shifts the percentage of ownership shares within First Avenue Entertainment LLLP, which owns the franchise and a majority interest in ROOT Sports, holdings the team said in April were valued at $1.4 billion.
Stanton said in April the ownership group includes 17 investors and there will be no majority owner among the group.