Lincoln Takes Over As M's CEO -- John Ellis Steps Aside For Nintendo Chairman

Change continue to swirl around the Seattle Mariners, who now have a new chairman and chief executive officer, Howard Lincoln, succeeding John Ellis.

Lincoln, who recently announced his intention to resign as chairman of Nintendo of America, has been part of the team's ownership since a group headed by Nintendo chairman Hiroshi Yamauchi purchased the M's in July of 1992.

His ascension to Ellis's position has long been rumored and became official this morning.

Ellis, 70, was named chairman emeritus of the Mariners and remains on their board of directors. He will also remain as the M's representative on the owners' influential executive council, as well as on the blue-ribbon economic committee that is studying the baseball's future.

The switch in CEO's comes as the Mariners are searching for a general manager to replace Woody Woodward, who resigned two weeks ago. They also face tough decisions regarding superstars Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, both of whom become free agents after next year and say their decision on staying with the Mariners depends on the direction of the club.

Lincoln, 59, has been the representative of Yamauchi and serves on the club's board of directors. He will step down as chairman of Nintendo of America on Feb. 14, 2000, his 60th birthday, ending 17 years with the company. He will remain on the boards of both Nintendo of America and the parent Nintendo Co. Ltd. of Kyoto, Japan.

"The goal of this ownership continues to be to field a competitive team and combine that with a first-class baseball entertainment experience at the new ballpark," Lincoln said in a statement. "It is my goal to bring the relationship between the Mariners and the public even closer in years to come."

The Mariners are embroiled in a dispute over cost overruns in the construction of Safeco Field, which opened July 15. The team has asked for $100 million in additional funding, while public officials contend the Mariners must cover all overruns themselves.

Ellis said that he feels the timing is right for him to step down from the position he has held since 1992 now that Safeco Field has opened.

"With that done, I am ready to hand over responsibility to Howard and help the Mariners any way I can," he said.

Ellis said he had "the highest regard" for Lincoln. "He has succeeded in an extremely competitive business and helped build a multi-billion dollar company, and that has prepared him well."

When Ellis became Mariner chairman in 1992, he thought it would be a six-month job, but he stayed on at the behest of major league baseball. Ellis first hinted of his pending retirement on the opening night of Safeco Field, telling The Seattle Times, "I don't know how much longer I'll be here. I certainly won't die in office.