Hiroshi Yamauchi dies at 85: game over for Nintendo tycoon
Video game visionary led former playing-card firm from near-bankruptcy to world domination
HIROSHI YAMAUCHI, who ran Nintendo for 53 years, turning it from a small business into a global giant, has died at 85. The Kyoto-born businessman ran the Japanese firm until 2002, when he stepped down at the age of 75.
Yamauchi had ceased to take an active role in Nintendo but was still the company's second-biggest shareholder at the time of his death. Here are five things you may not have known about him:
Yamauchi used to be Japan's richest man: Bloomberg reports that the former Nintendo boss was ranked Japan's richest man by Forbes Asia in 2008, with a net worth of $7.8bn as his stock soared with the rapid sales of the groundbreaking Wii console.
But Nintendo shares have since slumped - thanks to a lacklustre performance from the Wii's successor, the Wii U. At the time of his death, Yamauchi was 'only' worth $2.5bn.
The family business was playing cards: Nintendo was founded by Yamauchi's great-grandfather in 1889 and originally produced traditional Japanese playing cards - plastic western-style cards were an innovation of Yamauchi's after he took over in 1949. According to Steven Kent in his book The Ultimate History of Video Games, Yamauchi only agreed to join Nintendo on the condition that no other family members were employed there. He was hired as president and his cousin, who had been working for the firm, was fired.
Nintendo once produced fast food: It's now the world's largest video games manufacturer by revenue, but Nintendo was almost bankrupt when Yamauchi came on board in 1949, Bloomberg says. Desperate for a new direction, he tried producing toy guns, baby buggies and even fast food. None of these ventures succeeded.
He instituted a 'no borrowing' rule: Yamauchi was so chastened by his initial failures as president that he swore never again to borrow any capital to fund Nintendo's operations. The rule was strictly adhered to and even now, ten years after he quit, the tech firm holds $8.7bn cash and equivalents and, as of June 30 this year, had no debt.
He changed video games for ever: Rob Crossley, associate editor of Computer and Video Games magazine, told the BBC: "You cannot underestimate the influence the man had on the games industry. He spearheaded Nintendo as they moved into the arcade business, with hits such as Donkey Kong..
"This man was the president of Nintendo during the NES, the SNES, the N64 and the Gamecube - the first two were transformative pieces of electronic entertainment." ·