Costco Co-Founder , Passes Away Unexpectedly At 74
Costco Wholesale Corp. Chairman Jeffrey Brotman, who co-founded the company and helped kick off a movement that spread warehouse-style shopping to much of the world, has died. He was 74.
Brotman, who grew up in Tacoma, Washington, was a lawyer before turning to entrepreneurship. He helped start the Costco chain in 1982 with Jim Sinegal, who went on to become the company’s longtime chief executive officer.
Brotman wasn’t as much of a public face for Costco, but he served as chairman for decades. He also was a director on Starbucks Corp.’s board during the ’90s.
Jeffrey Hart Brotman was born in September 1942, according to public records. He attended the University of Washington and majored in political science. After graduating from its law school in 1967, he practiced law in Seattle. He also dabbled in retail, running businesses with his brother, Michael.
In the decades since Costco was founded, it has become one of the largest retailers in the nation — with a no-frills decor and treasure-hunting approach to shopping that rivals have frequently tried to imitate. The Issaquah, Washington-based company now has 736 warehouse stores, including 511 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
Brotman had a “sixth sense” for finding new Costco locations, balancing the need to be visible without overwhelming a community with traffic, said board member John Meisenbach, president of Seattle-based insurance firm MCM.
“When he and Jim Sinegal started it, everyone thought it was a tough sale because so many warehouse clubs had failed,” Meisenbach said. “They stuck to their guns in not trying to be a fancy place, and they took care of their employees.”
Brotman also was an avid golfer and skier, Meisenbach said.
Costco didn’t say who would replace Brotman as chairman. The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Brotman led the board since the company’s inception, except during a stretch from 1993 to 1994 when he was vice chairman.