Mariners majority owner Hiroshi Yamauchi died Sept. 19 at 85. He owned the Mariners for 21 years, but the subhead to his ownership was that he never watched a Mariners game in person. Still, when you consider the other owners in Seattle pro sports history, it’s clear that Yamauchi was among the best. Let’s rank them, worst to first.
13. Clay Bennett (Sonics, 2006–08) You know the story. Hate that guy!
12. Ken Behring (Seahawks, 1988–97) Behring wrecked the Seahawks, then tried to move them to Los Angeles.
11. Howard Schultz (Sonics, 2001–06) Schultz’ greatest sin was selling to Bennett.
10. Dewey Soriano (Pilots, 1969) Soriano and his brother Max put up the money to buy the expansion Pilots, but, facing financial ruin, secretly agreed to sell the team to Bud Selig.
9. George Argyros (Mariners, 1981–89) Argyros refused to supply the investment needed to build a good product. Then he sold the team to out-of-towners.
8. Jeff Smulyan (Mariners, 1989–92) The M’s set attendance records during Smulyan’s ownership. But he heard the siren call of south Florida, and began negotiating to move the team there.
7. Danny Kaye/Lester Smith group (Mariners, 1976–81) Their heart was in the right place, but the M’s first owners lacked the resources and know-how to build a successful MLB team.
6. Barry Ackerley (Sonics, 1983–2001) The Sonics made the playoffs in 13 of Ackerley’s 18 years as owner. Then again, he torpedoed Seattle’s best chance of getting an NHL team, and threatened to leave Seattle.
5. Nordstrom family (Seahawks, 1974–88) The Nordstroms hired well, ran a first-class organization, and had a winning team by year three. Then they sold the team to Behring after he agreed he wouldn’t try to move the team. Oops!
4. Hiroshi Yamauchi (Mariners, 1992–2013) When no Seattle investor had the money to buy the Mariners, Yamauchi stepped in as a thank-you to the region. But left to flounder without consequences, Yamauchi’s designated managers have wasted a decade’s worth of his dollars.
3. Paul Allen (Seahawks, 1997–present) The Hawks have been mostly mediocre during Allen’s tenure, but he made the right move when he cleaned house and handed the keys to Pete Carroll.
2. Sam Schulman (Sonics, 1967–83) Seattle never asked for the NBA—Sam Schulman brought it to us, and gave Seattle its only major pro sports championship.
1. Joe Roth (Sounders, 2007–present) Just in the team’s first season: a playoff appearance, a U.S. Open Cup, and a new MLS single-season attendance record—a record they’ve broken every year since. The Sounders’ ownership is the envy of every American soccer fan.