The Seattle Mariners began play in 1977 and have had a troubled history. The team didn’t have its first winning season until 1991 and didn’t make the playoffs until 1995. And while the franchise saw iconic players like Ken Griffey Jr, Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez, and Ichiro Suzuki play in their primes, through the 2022 season it has only been in the playoffs 5 times.
(And is the only MLB team to have never made the World Series)
So, if you’re a fan you may be wondering just who has owned the Mariners through all this futility. Also, who owns them today? And will they spend the money to make the team a contender for years to come? Let’s dive into the history of Seattle Mariners ownership!
Who Owns The Seattle Mariners Today?
The Seattle Mariners are owned by John Stanton, who is the principal of an LLLP named First Avenue Entertainment. Stanton’s group purchased 90% of the Mariners in 2016 at a valuation of $1.4 billion. The previous principal owner, Nintendo of America, retains a 10% ownership of the club.
While John Stanton became the principal owner of the Mariners in 2016, he had long been a minority owner in the team. Prior to 2016, he owned 10% of the Mariners.
It’s also worth noting that while John Stanton is the principal owner (that is to say, he owns the largest amount of the team) today, there are other investors in First Avenue Entertainment. For example, in 2021 Mariners legend Ken Griffey Jr became part of the ownership group.
John Stanton’s Net Worth
The next question on your mind might be, just how much is John Stanton worth? After all, owners with larger net worths tend to spend more on their clubs. For example, the richest Major League Baseball owner is the Mets’ Stephen Cohen, who in early 2023 is estimated to have a net worth of about $17 billion. Cohen has used his vast resources to significantly increase the amount the Mets spend on their roster.
The net worth of John Stanton is estimated to be $1.1 billion. Out of the 30 principal MLB owners, John Stanton ranks 23rd in terms of wealth. Teams with owners who have lower estimated net worths include the: Rockies, Reds, Rays, Marlins, Diamondbacks, and Brewers.
The reality is, all those clubs tend to be among the lower spenders in Major League baseball, which isn’t a positive sign for Mariners fans. However, team payrolls are determined by a number of factors including team revenues. In that respect, the Mariners punch above their weight. In 2021 the club had an estimated revenue of $313 million, which placed them 12th in baseball and above clubs like the New York Mets and St Louis Cardinals.
With the team having a young core of stars like Julio Rodriguez and George Kirby in place for years to come, they could push into the top 10 of Major League baseball revenue and give the ownership group additional flexibility to spend.
Finally, it’s worth noting that net worth estimates are just that… they’re estimates! With much of Stanton’s wealth in investments that aren’t public companies whose value is easy to calculate, there is a chance he’s worth substantially more than $1.1 billion. In fact, that measure comes from a Forbes estimate made all the way back in 2006. If his wealth grew at the same rate the stock market has risen since that time, it would be worth about $3 billion today.
How Did John Stanton Make his Money?
John Stanton’s $1.1 billion net worth came from his work in the telecommunications industry. The Seattle area produced several successful telecom startups in the 1980s, and Stanton served as the CEO of companies like Western Wireless and VoiceStream. Stanton worked closely with Craig McCaw, who also became a billionaire.
Today, Stanton serves as a board member at numerous high-profile companies including Microsoft and Costco.
Seattle Mariners Ownership History: Who Owned the Team Before John Stanton?
Believe it or not, Major League Baseball awarded the Mariners for just a $6.5 million expansion fee! That’s an incredibly cheap amount considering the team is valued at about $1.7 billion today.
The first owners of the club were Lester Smith and Danny Kaye, but their tenure wouldn’t last long. They sold the club to George Argyros in 1981. Argyros was from Southern California and preferred owning a team closer to home. After a series of penny-pinching seasons when the team underperformed, he tried selling the team to buy the San Diego Padres. After those attempts fell through, he sold to Jeff Smulyan for $75 million.
The Smulyan years were chaotic. In 1991 a lender that financed part of his acquisition demanded repayment of his loans. In a bind, Smulyan explored a sale that would move the team to Tampa Bay. However, Seattle had one last chance to save the franchise, which was finding a local owner to step forward and acquire the team.
That buyer ended up being Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi. Nintendo of America is headquartered in the Seattle suburb of Redmond, and Yamauchi wanted to purchase the team in gratitude to the area that had meant so much to the success of Nintendo. Incredibly, Yamauchi even invested his own personal money into the team even though he didn’t care for the sport of baseball and never attended a game.
Nintendo remained the primary owner of the franchise until 2016 when they sold the club to Stanton’s ownership group. The sale of their stake netted the company an impressive $661 million.