Stock market stories have a special place in my heart right now. I don’t know if its the fact that I own a few of my own at the moment, or if it’s because the stock market is basically professional gambling, or what — but I do love a good stock-related story.
Today’s — being found on Infendo — is naturally a Nintendo-centric story of wealth, philanthropy and baseball.
The largest single Nintendo shareholder is Hiroshi Yamauchi who owns 141,650,000 or 11.07% of the company. His shares have a market value of about $6.4 billion, and he reportedly is now the third wealthiest man in Japan. He was Chairman, President and undisputed leader of Nintendo for 53 years from 1949 until he retired in 2002 at the age of 75.
The man, in essence, IS Nintendo. When Nintendo was dabbling in card games and food products, Yamauchi was the guiding hand. He was at the helm in the glorious 1980’s and the turbulent 1990’s, and retired when the future of his company was *somewhat* in doubt. And then there was the baseball thing…
Among other things, Yamauchi is credited with keeping the Seattle Mariners in Seattle. He achieved that distinction by buying the biggest piece of ownership in The Baseball Club of Seattle, which was organized to buy out the Mariners owner, who had run into financial problems in his other ventures. The group formed to rescue the Mariners originally approached Bill Gates of Microsoft, but he chose not to participate. After being rebuffed by Gates, the group decided to approach Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington neighbor, Nintendo of America. Hiroshi Yamauchi’s son-in-law, Minoru Arakawa was President of NOA and had established himself as a leading member of the Seattle business community, so Yamauchi decided to fund a majority of the $125 million purchase price. In 1992 he paid $67 million for his 54% ownership stake in the Seattle Mariners. Interestingly, in the summer of 2004 he sold his entire stake in the Mariners to Nintendo of America for the same amount he paid even though Forbes estimated that the Seattle Mariners franchise was worth more than $400 million. Yamauchi, apparently, had no interest in baseball and purchased his share as a goodwill gesture to help local leaders keep the team in Seattle. In 13 seasons as an owner, Yamauchi never visited Seattle or witnessed a game.
I’m a cynic and as biased as they come, but that’s a pretty cool story and one that I think we’d be hard pressed to find very often. I’d like to think that if I were ever to worth more than a billion dollars, I’d have the rocks to toss around a few mil here and there to help my fellow man (and woman — especially woman). That said, with all that scratch, why the heck are they charging me to play my DS on the Mariner’s network!?
NOTE: I know I’m a passionate Nintendo fanman, but kudos need to be given to Microsoft’s Bill Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has improved the lives of millions over the years. Coming in third behind Bill and Nintendo is Sony, whose remarkable Blu-Ray Proprietary Media Format Fund has lined the pockets of many a Sony executive and stifled the industry with closed, proprietary formats.