Victory for local sports ownership

June 15, 1992

Let's get it straight. The Seattle Mariners are not being sold to foreigners. The Seattle Mariners are being sold to local owners. For the first time. That is the point of the baseball major league owners' decision to approve the team's sale. The alternative was not selling the club to someone else. The alternative was the Mariners' present owner -- who lives in Indianapolis -- moving the team to St. Petersburg. So the decision is a victory for the principle of local ownership.

True, most of the dollars are coming from a Japanese company, Nintendo. But the deal was conceived and pushed through by civic and business leaders in Seattle. One of those local business leaders is the head of Nintendo of America. It is a major employer in Seattle. Minoru Arakawa, its U.S. chief executive (and son-in-law of Nintendo's president), has lived in Seattle for 15 years. That is 15 years more than the present and previous owners of the Mariners combined. The club has had its problems on and off the field, and absentee ownership is one of them.

There will doubtless still be jingoists who wail at the loss of a national treasure to grubby foreigners. Hogwash. The purchase of the Mariners was born and bred in Seattle. The principal figures in the new ownership, in addition to Mr. Arakawa, were top executives of major corporations like Boeing and Microsoft, also headquartered there. Another was John Ellis, retiring chief executive of Puget Sound Power & Light Co., who will take over management of the Mariners. The point man was Slade Gorton, the state's Republican U.S. senator. Not a toady in the lot.

Whatever valid misgivings there may have been among baseball's leadership have apparently been allayed by a further dilution of Nintendo's control. Mr. Ellis will run the show, subject to virtually no control by Nintendo. It was likely from the start that the group of civic leaders which approached Nintendo in the first place would have called the shots, anyway. So the national pastime is still safe in American hands (which includes our neighbors to the north in two instances). What's more to the point, the Mariners are safe in local hands. Baltimoreans appreciate what that means.

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