On the heels of Howard Lincoln's retirement announcement came this from the Mariners:
Nintendo of America plans to sell a majority of its interest in the #Mariners to other members of the current ownership group.— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) April 27, 2016
This isn't a sale so much as it is a different way to slice up the pie, or as Lincoln phrased it, "a continuation of the ownership group." Nintendo will retain a 10% interest in the team, but their majority ownership will be purchased by other members of the ownership group for the low, low price of 1.4 BILLION dollars. This, according to John Stanton, is a fair market value agreed upon by the owners after consulting with several financial advisors. I hope they included the 19,000 remaining units of the Ack Attack train car giveaway in their valuation.
Howard Lincoln led off the press conference by reading the official press release, then spent some time thanking the original ownership group that purchased the team in 1992 and saved our team from being sold to California or St. Petersburg or worse. "This group of owners took a risk that no one in our community was prepared to take," said Lincoln. Furthermore, and what Lincoln didn't address but John Stanton did in his later comments, those owners took this risk despite a strong pushback from MLB that resisted the idea of Japanese ownership. Lincoln then proceeded to thank everyone else involved in the Mariners organization, from the ballpark staff to the front offices to Junior, Edgar and Lou, for helping ensure that baseball remained in Seattle and getting the team out of the Kingdome and into the beautiful ballpark that is Safeco field, at which point I was glad I am not credentialed press as my eyes, they welled. Finally he thanked the fans and noted that we all have the same goal--to get this team to the playoffs.
Next, John Stanton spoke, giving a brief biography that emphasized his ties to the Seattle area (Bellevue public schools, Whitman college, an MBA at Harvard before moving back to Seattle to establish his communications businesses) and his abiding love of sports. I actually lost track of how many times he said "I love sports, and especially baseball." In addition to his ownership interest in the Mariners, Stanton also owns interests in the Walla Walla Sweets, the Yakima Pippins, and the Tacoma Rainiers. As a teenager in the late 60s, he says he cried when the Pilots left, and this has informed his desire to keep baseball in Seattle. Stanton was also a minority owner of the Sonics (more on this later) and points out the Seattle is one of the few places in the country to have suffered the loss of two sports teams. He calls his ownership of the Mariners "the supreme honor for me in my career." Then, Stanton turned his discussion to the future, saying the "number one goal" is to bring a World Series to Seattle, to have a celebration and a parade. "It's time," he said. He pointed out that 200,000 people have already passed through the turnstiles at Safeco this season. His voice grew more emphatic. "The fans are the reason we're here. They invest their money, they invest their time, and they deserve a great product on the field." At least, I think that's what he said--there appear to be some spots on my notes and who said they were tears no one said they were tears you're tears. "The energy in baseball is a product of winning," he said, "and we will do whatever it takes to win."
Stanton referred to the sale as a "transition" more than a "transaction." The board will remain the same, with Stanton acting as "control person," which sounds made up but he says it's something MLB requires, I guess so they know where to send their Howlers when someone gifs a play for Twitter. The transaction won't close until August, when it's submitted for MLB's approval at the owner's meeting happening in Houston this August, so nothing's happening immediately. Of note: when the sale processes in August, only the Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays will remain as teams owned by corporations.
During the Q&A portion, of course the question arose about the potential arena deal. Both Lincoln and Stanton were adamant in saying the owners are united in their position: the ownership does not want an arena in the proposed location, which they feel is too close to Safeco's parking garage. Stanton then said something that was maybe...ill-advised, comparing it to being a homeowner and having someone want to build a "big ugly house" at the end of your driveway. It's a shame that this is what will probably garner the most buzz from the press conference, because if one watches the whole thing here's what I think the major takeaway is: this ownership wants to win. They feel this is the time, and they are willing to do what it takes. Seventeen people are taking out their checkbooks to write big fat checks in amounts that would melt our poor plebe brains (I'm assuming anyone actually reading this and not paying a robot monkey butler to read it to them is a plebe like me) so that the locus of control for the Mariners is local. The consistency of communication across the organization was on display here: win. Win now. This is the time. And that's something I can get on board with.