Former Seattle Mariners majority owner Hiroshi Yamauchi died in Japan of pneumonia. He was age 85.
Yamauchi bought 55 percent of the team in 1992. He also owned about 10 percent of Nintendo's worldwide holdings.
Yamauchi and a local group of investors made the purchase when it looked like another group was going to be offered to buy the team and move it to St. Petersburg, Fla.
"Mr. Yamauchi deserves unending thanks for his key role in saving baseball in Seattle," Mariners minority investor Buck Ferguson told the Seattle Times on Thursday.
Yamauchi transferred his shares of the Mariners to Nintendo in 2004
for estate planning purposes, but kept titular control of the club. Mariners officials insisted that all major decisions had to go through Yamauchi.
Yamauchi reportedly did not have much interest in baseball as he never saw the Mariners play live, even when they played a series of exhibition games in Tokyo in March 2012 against the Oakland A's.
His wife died a year ago at age 82 so there is question over who will take over control of the club. The largest minority owner is Chris Larson, who has a 30.6 percent share of the team. Also, billionaire John Stanton is believed to own 10 percent and is considered the most financially able to acquire a majority of the team if it goes for sale.
Yamauchi and the local investors paid $120 million for the Mariners in 1992.