5:19pm: Stanton will become the chairman and CEO of the Mariners, the team announced today in a press release. Kevin Mather will remain the club’s president. MLB.com’s Greg Johns tweets that the ownership change is subject to approval from Major League Baseball, which won’t be finalized until August. Per the press release announcing the ownership transition, the Mariners franchise was valued at $1.4 billion, meaning that First Avenue Entertainment, the new ownership group, spent $1.26 billion to purchase its 90 stake. Lincoln issued the following statement:
“From the first day of our involvement nearly 24 years ago, Nintendo has had two goals for its investment in the Mariners. 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.”
Stanton, too, issued a statement in the Mariners’ press release:
“My goal and the goal of the entire Mariners ownership and management team is to win a World Series. 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.”
2:00pm: Unspecified “ownership changes” have led to the end of CEO Howard Lincoln’s tenure with the Mariners, Mike Salk of 710 ESPN reports. Lincoln is set to resign his position, per the report, with minority owner John Stanton in line to “become the new point person for the ownership group” — though it’s unclear precisely what position (if any) he will take.
It’s obviously difficult at this point to assess the long-term ramifications of the move. It’s not clear whether other front office changes could be afoot, though it would obviously be surprising if there were any immediate impact on baseball operations. A news conference has been scheduled for this afternoon, which may begin to shed further light on the situation, including the underlying ownership modifications that prompted the leadership move.
The 76-year-old Lincoln has held his role since taking over before the start of the 2000 season. A former executive with Nintendo of America, the entity which now owns a controlling share of the ballclub, Lincoln is said to have been involved at the highest levels since the current M’s ownership group took control back in 1992.
Lincoln was obviously a significant part of the team’s financial dealings over the years, including the construction of Safeco Field and the organization’s regional sports network agreement in 2013. He was an immensely powerful figure in the organization, as Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times explains. Of course, his tenure has also come with its share of criticism; among other things, the club’s attendance has dwindled quite a bit and its last post-season berth came way back in 2001.
Among Lincoln’s more recent moves was the promotion of Kevin Mather to president and COO early in 2014, replacing Chuck Armstrong. At the time, the organization was winding up for what it hoped would be a successful 2015 season after shocking the baseball world by signing Robinson Cano. But the on-field results proved disappointing, and the leadership group ultimately fired GM Jack Zduriencik, who has since been replaced at the helm of baseball operations by Jerry Dipoto.
Now, it seems, Stanton will decide the strategic direction of the Seattle organization. He is said to have been looking to enhance his role with the club for some time, as Baker explains (Twitter links). Stanton reportedly controls about one-tenth of the Mariners’ ownership stake at present; it’s not known whether he’ll increase his holdings as part of today’s shake-up.