Hiroshi Yamauchi | Nintendo president, 85
Kyoto-based Nintendo said Mr. Yamauchi, who was also known for owning the Seattle Mariners major league baseball club, died Thursday of pneumonia at a hospital in central Japan.
Mr. Yamauchi was Nintendo president from 1949 to 2002, and engineered the company's global growth, including developing the early Family Computer consoles and Game Boy portables.
Nintendo, which makes Super Mario and Pokemon games as well as the Wii U home console, was founded in 1889.
A dropout of the prestigious Waseda University in Tokyo, Mr. Yamauchi displayed a kind of disarming spontaneity rare among Japanese executives.
He had little interest in baseball, but was approached to buy the Mariners, who may have had to move to Florida without a new backer.
The acquisition in 1992 made the Seattle club the first in the major leagues to have foreign ownership.
"Hiroshi Yamauchi is the reason that Seattle has the Mariners," former Sen. Slade Gorton said Thursday from his home in Bellevue, Wash. "When no one else would stand up and purchase them and they were about to leave to go to Florida, he did, simply as a civic gesture."
The Mariners issued a statement on his death saying his gesture of goodwill to the citizens of the Pacific Northwest is legendary, and he also promoted Japanese players.
Mr. Yamauchi never watched his baseball team play in person and transferred his majority shares to Nintendo of America in 2004. - AP