Co-founded Costco chain
Jeff Brotman, who cofounded retail giant Costco and was the chairman of its board of directors, has died at his home outside Seattle. He was 74.
Costco Wholesale Corp. said Brotman died early Tuesday. The cause was not immediately known.
Brotman had attended a dinner in Seattle for about 2,000 Costco managers from around the world the evening before his death, the Seattle Times reported.
“The thoughts of Costco’s board, management and employees are with Jeff ’s wife and family,” the company said.
Brotman opened Costco’s first warehouse with Jim Sinegal in 1983 in Seattle.
Months earlier, Brotman had met venture capitalist Fred Paulsell on a flight to Seattle that was struck by lightning and made an emergency landing in San Francisco.
Brotman talked to Paulsell about his idea of opening a chain of low-cost warehouse clubs, and Paulsell ended up providing critical financing and advice for the start-up.
Based in Issaquah, Wash., the company now operates 736 warehouses around the world, including 511 in the United States and Puerto Rico. Costco has generally been ranked as the world’s second-largest retailer, behind Wal-Mart. Amazon, though, has now surpassed both.
Brotman was a major supporter of Democratic political candidates. In 2012, he hosted a fundraising luncheon for President Obama at his home in Medina, Wash.
Along with Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz, Brotman also hosted a $5,000-a-plate fundraising event in 2000 for then-vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman. He endorsed Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016.
He was regent at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he studied political science and earned an undergraduate degree in 1964.
He later earned a law degree from the university in 1967. While he was a student there, he worked for his family’s business, a men’s clothing chain called Bernie’s.
He was married to former Nordstrom executive Susan Brotman.
HEAD OF A RETAIL GIANT While on a flight to Seattle, Jeff Brotman chatted with a venture capitalist about his idea for a low-cost warehouse club. The first Costco opened in 1983.