Billionaire Nintendo Changemaker Hiroshi Yamauchi Dies

The long-time leader of Nintendo and an icon of Japan’s videogame industry, Hiroshi Yamauchi, passed away today in Japan at the age of 85.


Nintendo released a statement saying the company “is in mourning today from the sad loss of the former Nintendo president Mr Hiroshi Yamauchi, who sadly passed away this morning.”

Yamauchi took over the family company, founded by his grandfather in 1889 as a maker of playing cards, after his grandfather suffered a stroke. Over his 53 year reign,  the college dropout transformed Nintendo into a global video game industry powerhouse. His vision launched the Game Boy console and the classic Donkey Kong and Super Marios video games.

In 2002, Yamauchi stepped down as Nintendo president because of bad health, but kept on as an adviser. He left the company in good shape: sales reached $4.5 billion and profits almost tripled to $1.3 billion, thanks in part to the success of a new portable video game player. At his request he gave up his retirement $11 million allowance and asked that it be included in company profit instead.

Yamauchi bought the Seattle Mariners baseball team in 1992, later transferring it to the company’s U.S. unit.In 2005, Yamauchi left Nintendo’s board of directors, but remained the largest individual shareholder with a 10% stake. As of April 2013, Forbes estimated Yamauchi’s net worth at $2.1 billion; he was #13 on this year’s Japan rich list.Yamauchi will be buried on Saturday. He is survived by his wife and three children.