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Costco co-founder, chairman dies


A retail legend has passed.

The co-founder and chairman of Costco Wholesale Club, Jeff Brotman, 74, died Tuesday morning. He died in his sleep at his home and the cause of his death wasn’t immediately known.

Brotman's death came as a "complete shock," according to the Seattle Times. On the Monday night prior, he had attended a dinner for about 2,000 Costco warehouse managers from around the world who are gathered this week at the Washington State Convention Center, the report said.

"The thoughts of Costco’s board, management and employees are with Jeff’s wife and family,” Costco said in a statement. The company did not say who would succeed Brotman as chairman.

Brotman had retail in his blood from an early age. His father, Bernard Brotman, founded several specialty stores in the Tacoma Washington area. Brotman co-founded Costco Wholesale with Jim Sinegal, who served as the company's CEO until he stepped down in 2011. The two opened the first Costco warehouse club location in 1983, in Seattle, and built it into a global retail powerhouse. The company currently operates 736 warehouses, including 511 in the United States and Puerto Rico, 97 in Canada, 37 in Mexico, 28 in the United Kingdom, 25 in Japan, 13 in Korea, 13 in Taiwan, eight in Australia, two in Spain, one in Iceland and one in France.

Brotman previously served as chairman of the company's board from Costco's founding until 1993, when he became vice chairman of the company. Since December 1994, he served as chairman.

Brotman was famous for his philanthropy, which spanned the educational, medical and cultural arenas. He and his wife were major donors to the Democratic Party. Brotman also supported other entrepreneurs, and was an early investor in Starbucks.

“I will miss Jeff immensely. He was a dear friend, mentor and a brother,” Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ executive chairman, said in a statement. “He was one of the earliest believers and investors in Starbucks and in me.”

Schultz also commented on Brotman's charitable endeavors, describing him as "a shining light in the community contributing so much to Seattle and the nation. We have lost a titan of our community.”

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