From the Super Mario Wiki
Hiroshi Yamauchi (山内 博, * November 7, 1927 — † September 19, 2013) was the third president of Nintendo Co, Ltd.; he held the position for 53 years, from 1949 until 2002, when he declared Satoru Iwata his successor. He was Chairman of Nintendo's Board of Directors and was the third-richest man in Japan. When he was in office, Yamauchi changed Nintendo's focus from a small hanafuda playing card company into a large video game manufacturer. Eventually, Nintendo became the world's biggest entertainment software company.
Yamauchi assisted in the production of Donkey Kong, and was the executive producer of all subsequent games published by Nintendo, up until his retirement. Five consoles were created by Nintendo during his tenure; the last was the Nintendo GameCube, which was released in 2001. Luigi's Mansion was the last entry in the Mario franchise to see Yamauchi as its executive producer before his retirement.
His persistence in marketing the Robotic Operating Buddy (R.O.B.) with the Nintendo Entertainment System allowed Nintendo to revitalize the video game market in North America, which had been in a severe decline following the video game crash of 1983. He died of pneumonia in 2013.