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Ed's Friend Lester Smith Dead at Age 93

(News Item #0275, Published: 10/25/12, Author: , Seattle Times Newspaper)

The Seattle Mariners were saddened to hear today that one of the franchise’s original owners, Lester M. Smith, has died. SportsPress Northwest has posted an obituary here.

Smith was a partner with entertainer Danny Kaye, who along with four other investors, were the original owners of the Mariners when the expansion franchise was created in 1976. He and Kaye owned a string of successful radio stations, including Seattle’s KJR.

Mariners President Chuck Armstrong on Smith’s legacy:

“This man was a giant in the radio and entertainment business, and was Danny Kaye’s business partner. Moreover, throughout the years, Les served as a fabulous mentor and sounding board for me and provided a treasure trove of insight into the Mariners early days. He was a wonderful man. And if not for him and his efforts, we might not have Major League Baseball in Seattle today. Les remained a Mariners season ticket holder and came to as many games as he could. I will miss him a lot.”

The Mariners send their condolences and best wishes to Smith’s wife Bernice, daughters June, Kim and Laura, son Alex, grandchildren and great grandchildren.


Wurz "He was the business guy that always had Ed Bannisters back and was key in helping Ed with the internship program and helping so many of us get our careers off to a good start."



Lester M. Smith, who along with entertainer Danny Kaye and four other investors became the original owners of the Seattle Mariners in 1976, died Wednesday at his home of undisclosed causes. He was 93. Smith, Kaye, Stanley Golub, Walter Schoenfeld, James Stillwell and James A. Walsh owned the Mariners until 1981, when they sold to California real estate developer George Argyros.

Smith came to the expansion Mariners as a businessman who had spent most of his working career in the broadcasting industry. His interest started in 1954 when he acquired KJR. He subsequently became CEO of Kaye-Smith Enterprises, a diversified company in the fields of entertainment and broadcasting.

Smith also became a partner in the Seattle Sounders of the North American Soccer League and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce.

Born Oct. 20, 1919 in New York City to Sadie and Alexander Smith, Smith graduated from New York University and went to work for NBC as a page, guiding tours of its New York studios. Smith served in the military during WWII, after which he traveled to San Francisco to visit an uncle, and decided to make the West Coast his home.

Smith joined a media brokerage firm in 1951 and became a station owner in 1954 when Seattle’s KJR became available. Smith also acquired radio stations in Portland and Spokane. By the 1960s, Les had become a partner with Kaye in 10 radio stations – each known as a well-run, highly competitive market leader.

Kaye-Smith Enterprises entered many other entertainment-related businesses. It opened Seattle’s first major recording studio, created a video and radio advertising production business, built the world’s largest concert promotions company and developed a successful radio syndication company.

At 67, Les purchased a modest business forms company and brought his entrepreneurial skills to bear on an industry he knew little about. Today, Kaye-Smith is a leading document outsourcing and financial communications company.

Smith was preceded in death by his parents, and brothers Howard and Danny. He is survived by wife Bernice, daughters June (Alan) Brockmeier, Kim Miller, Laura (Paul) Roberts, and son Alex (Ange) Smith, grandchildren Jennifer (Ben) Smith, Geoff Brockmeier, Nathan Smith and Lucy Smith, great-granddaughters Ella and Lauren and several nephews.

The family requests that, in lieu of flowers, friends support a charity of their choice to honor Smith. The family plans a celebration of Smith’s life in December.