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Hiroshi Yamauchi, Who Ran Nintendo For 53 Years, Dies at Age 85

Posted On: 9/19/2013

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TAGS: Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nintendo Co., video game, videogame history, Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., arcade games, toy company

KYOTO, Japan -- Hiroshi Yamauchi, who ran Nintendo Co. for 53 years, died on Sept. 18. He was 85.

Yamauchi, who was the great grandson of the company's founder, was the third president of Nintendo, joining the company in 1949 until stepping down on May 31, 2002; he was succeeded by Satoru Iwata. Yamauchi is credited with transforming Nintendo from a small hanafuda card-making company in Japan to a multibillion-dollar videogame enterprise. He also became the majority owner of the Seattle Mariners baseball team in 1992; the current chief executive of the Mariners is former Nintendo of America chairman Howard Lincoln.

Yamauchi, who was once ranked Japan's richest man, was Nintendo's second-largest shareholder with about 10% of the stock, according to Bloomberg. As of April 2013, Forbes estimated Yamauchi's net worth at $2.1 billion; he was No. 13 on this year's Japan wealthiest list and No. 491 richest in the world.

At the beginning of the electronics era, Yamauchi decided to expand Nintendo into the U.S. in an attempt to cash in on the growing American arcade video market. He hired son-in-law Minoru Arakawa to head the new American operation. Its Japanese hits like Radar Scope, Space Fever and Sheriff did not achieve the same success in the U.S., so Yamauchi turned to designer Shigeru Miyamoto's special project, Donkey Kong, which became a smash hit in 1981.